Study predicts solid increase in
Engineering opportunities will probably outnumber the supply of available
engineers in the United States by 2005. So concludes a report by the National
Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation. The projections
are part of a Board study titled "Science and Engineering Indicators 1996." The
Board makes three sets of predictions based on how well the overall U.S. economy
performs. In a low-growth economy during the period to 2005, engineering jobs
are seen increasing 19%. In medium growth, they would climb 34%; and in high
growth, 49%. On the other hand, employment in physical sciences will decrease by
3% in low growth and rise only 4% or 14%, respectively, in the other two
scenarios. In low growth, the study predicts, there will be a 2% excess of
engineers. But demand for engineers will outstrip supply by 4% in a mid-growth
scenario and by 10% in high growth. Foreign engineers and students who switch to
engineering, the report says, would help fill such gaps.
Synthetic ankle joint results from anti-ballistic missile R&D
An artificial ankle joint that is stronger and lighter than steel has passed human clinical trials at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, DC. The hospital and Sparta, Inc., of San Diego, are doing research on the device as a replacement for the heavy steel leg brace. Based on materials technology developed by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization for missile interceptors, the joint uses composite materials including carbon thermoplastic matrix. Sparta has other devices in the works, including orthotic knee joints and foot plates.
High-temperature materials require new coatings
With new technologies creating a broad range of heat-resistant materials, gas turbines now operate at temperatures much higher than a decade ago. Currently used coatings won't be able to withstand the heat. In the past, engineers usually picked high-temperature coatings after designing blades, vanes, and other turbine components. Now, the component and coating must be designed hand-in-hand. That's the finding of the National Research Council's Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems. "In some proposed designs," the panel reports, "the coating and substrate form a continuum, literally blurring the boundary between the surface deposit and the material it coats." The committee considered propulsion systems for commercial and military aircraft and their marine and industrial versions. Particular attention was paid to the coating needs of ceramics, intermetallics, and other substrate materials being considered for future engine designs. New coatings will likely have graded compositions and multiple layers. The committee also suggests research into coatings with built-in sensors and embedded microchannels that contain streams of cooling fluids.
Army seeks better designs for electronics-packed helmets
The U.S. Army has a lot of work ahead in its effort to equip the infantry for high-technology battlefields of the future. A special panel of the National Research Council reports on challenges faced by designers of tactical display systems alone. The current concept is a monocular, opaque device mounted on a soldier's helmet. In trials, soldiers praised the device for improved communications, its thermal sight, and the navigational information provided by the Global Position System. However, they complained that the helmet caused motion sickness and disorientation. The panel suggests that designers at the Army Research Laboratory and the Natick Research Development and Engineering Center also consider opaque and see-through devices that are either helmet mounted or hand held. More research especially is needed, the report states, on how vibration from walking affects the system. Another question: Does the device change the center of gravity of the user leading to motion sickness or spinal injury? The report states that the system must be flexible enough to meet a variety of new missions, including anti-terrorist operations, catastrophe relief, and peacekeeping.
Statistics software adds graphical equation modeling
Amos 3.5 for Windows, a structural equation modeling program, features an easy-to-use graphical interface. A product of SmallWaters Corp., of Chicago, Amos eliminates the need to write your own equations or specify models in a programming language. Amos' capability for causal modeling enables you to go beyond conventional factor analysis and multiple regression. You can find answers to design questions, and present them in path diagrams. SPSS Inc. of Chicago distributes Amos, which you can access through menus on SPSS statistical software. SPSS, meanwhile, has come out with a CD-ROM containing an array of tools and data, including the base module for SPSS 7.0 for Windows and census information from Wessex, Inc., and Claritas, Inc.