John Daly over at Thoughts About K4D has posted a link to the National Academy of Engineering website, where they're inviting visitors to brainstorm about ways engineering can help shape the world’s future. NAE will announce twenty Grand Challenges for Engineering in September, 2007. "The ultimate determination will be made by a blue-ribbon committee with wide ranging expertise... They are conducting research on cutting-edge areas of engineering and seeking input from people all over the world. Please join the discussion..."
Contributions are being sought in 3 areas--"Hope," "Innovations," and "Grand Challenges." i counted 59 suggestions that have so far been made under Grand Challenges. For example, Joel Rybacki, Pennsylvania, wrote:
Truly sustainable and affordable alternative energy sources will be the greatest challenge. We cannot continue to ride the roller coaster of oil supply and demand. We cannot realistically grow enough crops to supply our growing energy needs. We cannot continue to rely on centrally located power centers to reliably supply energy to the population. The real challenge in this will be to develop a reliable, sustainable, and affordable power generator that can be incorporated into either private dwellings or small-scale local power centers that are interconnected in such a way that it would be difficult to isolate entire communities from the power grid as has so often happened in the last decade.
And i think Peter Chamberlain, University of Portland, is right on the mark when he adds:
Sustainability must become the primary driver of engineering design, not consumption. Here are two of many examples. First, disposable packaging for food and consumer products wastes resources and fills our landfills. Why don't we design reusable packing that is returned by consumers via stores to the original manufacturers?...Second, the prevalence of cars in our transportation system is burning up our energy and material resources. Does it make sense to use a 3,000 lb machine to move a 160 lb person? If we slow down our vehicles (say 25 mph) and ban our SUV, we can all safely drive small vehicles that weight less than we do. It doesn't matter if these vehicles use gasoline, batteries, fuel cells, or our own legs. They will all be more efficient than cars. More of them will fit on our roads so we will be able to get to work faster. We will save energy, raw materials, and a lot of money. We will get to work faster. What ever happened to bicycles?
Victor Vovakes, Tempe, Arizona almost put me off when he said near the beginning of his piece "...as we are doing this, currently, there are many people throughout the world who wish the United States to fail. They are buliding nuclear materials, they are trying to smuggle all kinds of contraband through our purous borders and 'they' are dilligent(sp) and persistent in their endeavors..." But i had to agree with him 100% when he concluded,
...We all need to spend more time contemplating human relations. Is there a way we can bring done(sp) the "Wall" again? Remember the future is only as good as we make it. We cannot leave the world the way it is to our children's children. Can We? Gadgets are cool. Stem cell research is great. But without the proper ideals and morals, will any engineering accomplishment really matter? (! Italics mine) Hopefully someone will be the Savior for all mankind.