Nineteen-ninety-seven was another good year for engineering. Salaries were up, according to the latest Design News salary survey (see "Engineers on a wild ride," June 7, 1997), and so was job satisfaction. And, thanks to some spectacular technical feats and the publicity they garnered, respect for the engineering profession was up too.
One of the highest-profile engineering achievements of the decade was the mission to Mars. It was engineers who took the nation there, and the fuel for the trip was their knowledge of components, materials, and design tools.
Here on Earth, several developments caught the attention of Design News readers. We ask readers to tell us which stories in each issue are the most useful to them. Among the stories readers say they found most useful this year were:
A description of SatCon's Reaction Mass Actuator, which senses noise and vibration in helicopters. The heart of the device is a cylinder of Terfenol-D, a magnetostrictive material, developed by the former Naval Ordinance Laboratory. (January 6, 1997)
"Barnstormer of the deep," the profile of the work of engineer Graham Hawkes, a pioneer in advanced submersibles. Hawkes won the 1997 Design News Special Achievement Award for his work. (March 3, 1997)
The explanation of technology in Porsche's new Boxster. Instead of air cooling, it employs water cooling. The Boxster uses a Bosch Motronic M5.2 electronic engine management system, variable camshaft timing, and a four-valve-per-cylinder design. (March 24, 1997)
A report on a pump that replaces the chain in a bicycle drive. It could also be used in IC engines and air motors. (June 23, 1997)
The Fastener Productivity Kit, with reports on innovative products to solve fastening problems. (July 21, 1997)
Overall, these stories show the wide range of interests of our readers and their need for the latest technical information in a variety of fields. Which was the story most useful to you in '97?
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.