Study says engineering schools must emphasize design
Design should have a bigger chunk of the curricula at engineering schools. So concludes a new study by a panel of the National Research Council. The group tackled the question of how engineering schools should change in the 21st century. Among recommendations: Integrate basics with "early and broad exposure" to engineering practice and creative design. Give more exposure to hands-on industrial practice, team work, and systems thinking. Put more engineers with design and management experience on faculties. Allow faculty members to spend more time in "real" engineering practice, and invite more industry engineers to lecture. Mix more business and liberal arts into courses. The panel also urges the National Science Foundation to fund development of teaching tools for engineering educators. Suggestions include a nationwide television network for undergraduate instruction and an online electronic library of documents used to build modular tutorials. To promote "technological literacy" in America, the study recommends that colleges require all non-engineering students to take survey courses on engineering and technology.
Advanced Technology Program shrinks after funding cuts
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is downsizing its Advanced Technology Program (ATP). President Clinton recently signed a public law rescinding $90 million from ATP's $340.7 million appropriation for fiscal year 1995. ATP funds firms for innovative ventures that carry high risks. To adapt to $60 million of the cut, the ATP will delay until next year competitions for two or more new focused program areas. The additional $30 million will be saved by funding fewer projects in the general competition of fiscal 1995 and planned competitions for the 11 established focused programs. Slashes will land on projects in competitions that bring the weakest proposals.
"Supercar" partnership seeks long list of fresh inventions
Got any ideas for the design of a supercar? The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) wants to hear about them. PNGV is a joint effort by the federal government and the Big Three auto makers. The aim is to develop an auto that will get three times the fuel efficiency of today's comparable models. A new publication, "Inventions Needed for PNGV," pinpoints scores of areas that warrant special attention by designers. For example, PNGV is looking for better energy conversion through four-stroke, direct-injection engines, turbines and fuel cells. Also wanted are controllers that accept plug-and-play sensors, a process that can detect defective bonds immediately during assembly, and advanced torque-sensing devices. For electrical systems, the search is on for advanced electric motors, power electronics, and efficient controllers for regenerative braking, power management, and signal distribution. Information on how to participate in the program also is in the publication. To receive a copy, write: PNGV Secretariat, U.S. Department of Commerce, Room 7064, 14th St. and Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20230.
New safety tests subject cars to frontal offset crashes
For the first time in the United States, a group of new cars has undergone an offset crash test into a deformable barrier. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, headquartered in Arlington, VA, subjected 14 four-door midsize cars to frontal crashes at 40 mph. The test differs from crash tests by the federal government. They slam the full width of a vehicle's front end into a rigid barrier at 35 mph. Institute officials say the government test is especially demanding on cars' restraint systems but less demanding on vehicle structure. The reverse is true in an offset test, which, according to the institute, is a better measure of the quality of crumple zones and safety cages. The institute's tests gave the best ratings to the Chevrolet Lumina, the Ford Taurus and the Volvo 850. Six of the 1995-model cars tested, however, rated poorly. They were the Nissan Maxima, the Chrysler Cirrus, the Mitsubishi Galant, the Chevrolet Cavalier, the Volkswagen Passat, and the Ford Contour.
National Academy of Engineering elects former designer as head
Members of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) have elected a former design engineer as their new president. Harold Liebowitz, dean emeritus of engineering and applied science at George Washington University, Washington, DC, will start his six-year term as head of NAE on July 1. He also will serve as vice chairman of the National Research Council, the main operating arm of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering. Liebowitz's professional career as an aerospace engineer included design, teaching, research, and supervision of scientific and engineering programs. He succeeds Robert M. White, an expert in meteorology and oceanography, who has been NAE president since 1983. The 1,790-member NAE was founded in 1964.