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Connecting Individual K-12 STEM Subjects Has Potential Advantages, Poses Challenges

March 13, 2014 Comments off

Connecting Individual K-12 STEM Subjects Has Potential Advantages, Poses Challenges
Source: National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council

A new report from the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council examines current efforts to connect the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines in K-12 education, both in formal classroom settings and informal learning environments, and suggests research to help determine the conditions most likely to lead to positive outcomes such as greater student retention and achievement, improved college-readiness skills, and increased interest in pursuing a STEM-related career. A short video illustrating today’s STEM education landscape and the potential benefits and challenges of integrated approaches also was released in conjunction with the report. The report and video note that the recently published Next Generation Science Standards, which encourage integration between science concepts and engineering practices, provide an impetus for considering integration.

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Protecting National Park Soundscapes

June 11, 2013 Comments off

Protecting National Park Soundscapes

Source: National Academy of Engineering/National Park Service

America’s national parks provide a wealth of experiences to millions of people every year. What visitors see—landscapes, wildlife, cultural activities—often lingers in memory for life. And what they hear adds a dimension that sight alone cannot provide. Natural sounds can dramatically enhance visitors’ experience of many aspects of park environments. In some settings, such as the expanses of Yellowstone National Park, they can even be the best way to enjoy wildlife, because animals can be heard at much greater distances than they can be seen. Sounds can also be a natural complement to natural scenes, whether the rush of water over a rocky streambed or a ranger’s explanation of a park’s history. In other settings, such as the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, sounds are the main reason for visiting a park.

The acoustical environment is also important to the well-being of the parks themselves. Many species of wildlife depend on their hearing to find prey or avoid predators. If they cannot hear, their survival is jeopardized—and the parks where they live may in turn lose part of their natural heritage. For all these reasons it is important to be aware of noise (defined as unwanted sound, and in this case usually generated by humans or machinery), which can degrade the acoustical environment, or soundscape, of parks. Just as smog smudges the visual horizon, noise obscures the listening horizon for both visitors and wildlife. This is especially true in places, such as remote wilderness areas, where extremely low sound levels are common. The National Park Service (NPS) has determined that park facilities, operations, and maintenance activities produce a substantial portion of noise in national parks and thus recognizes the need to provide park managers with guidance for protecting the natural soundscape from such noise. Therefore, the focus of the workshop was to define what park managers can do to control noise from facilities, operations, and maintenance, and not on issues such as the effects of noise on wildlife, noise metrics, and related topics.

To aid in this effort, NPS joined with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and with the US Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to hold a workshop to examine the challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s array of parks. Entitled "Protecting National Park Soundscapes: Best Available Technologies and Practices for Reducing Park- Generated Noise," the workshop took place October 3-4, 2012, at NPS’s Natural Resource Program Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. Protecting National Park Soundscapes is a summary of the workshop.

Making Value: Integrating Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation to Thrive in the Changing Global Economy

September 28, 2012 Comments off

Making Value: Integrating Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation to Thrive in the Changing Global Economy

Source: National Academy of Engineering

Manufacturing is in a period of dramatic transformation. But in the United States, public and political dialogue is simplistically focused almost entirely on the movement of certain manufacturing jobs overseas to low-wage countries. The true picture is much more complicated, and also more positive, than this dialogue implies.

After years of despair, many observers of US manufacturing are now more optimistic. A recent uptick in manufacturing employment and output in the United States is one factor they cite, but the main reasons for optimism are much more fundamental. Manufacturing is changing in ways that may favor American ingenuity. Rapidly advancing technologies in areas such as biomanufacturing, robotics, smart sensors, cloud-based computing, and nanotechnology have transformed not only the factory floor but also the way products are invented and designed, putting a premium on continual innovation and highly skilled workers. A shift in manufacturing toward smaller runs and custom-designed products is favoring agile and adaptable workplaces, business models, and employees, all of which have become a specialty in the United States. Future manufacturing will involve a global supply web, but the United States has a potentially great advantage because of our tight connections among innovations, design, and manufacturing and also our ability to integrate products and services.

The National Academy of Engineering has been concerned about the issues surrounding manufacturing and is excited by the prospect of dramatic change. On June 11-12, 2012, it hosted a workshop in Washington, DC, to discuss the new world of manufacturing and how to position the United States to thrive in this world. The workshop steering committee focused on two particular goals. First, presenters and participants were to examine not just manufacturing but the broad array of activities that are inherently associated with manufacturing, including innovation and design. Second, the committee wanted to focus not just on making things but on making value, since value is the quality that will underlie high-paying jobs in America’s future. Making Value: Integrating Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation to Thrive in the Changing Global Economy summarizes the workshop and the topics discussed by participants.

Frontiers of Engineering 2011: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2011 Symposium

February 17, 2012 Comments off

Frontiers of Engineering 2011: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2011 Symposium
Source: National Academy of Engineering of the National Academies

The practice of engineering is continually changing. Engineers today must be able not only to thrive in an environment of rapid technological change and globalization, but also to work on interdisciplinary teams. Cutting-edge 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 U.S. Frontiers of Engineer Symposium, engineers have the opportunity to learn from their peers about pioneering work being done in many areas of engineering. Frontiers of Engineering 2011: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2011 Symposium highlights the papers presented at the event. This book covers four general topics from the 2011 symposium: additive manufacturing, semantic processing, engineering sustainable buildings, and neuro-prosthetics. The papers from these presentations provide an overview of the challenges and opportunities of these fields of inquiry, and communicate the excitement of discovery.

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