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There are exciting happenings at the NAE, and I would like to share news from the recent NAE National Meeting at the Beckman Center in Irvine, CA. I was delighted by the fascinating keynote presentation and Gilbreth Lectures as well as the participation of NAE members, EngineerGirl ambassadors, and local students. All the meetings were in person.
The energy throughout the event was evident in the remarkable research presented by the esteemed Gilbreth lecturers, and the vibrancy of the EngineerGirl ambassadors and students from local schools (Samueli Academy, Cabrillo High School, and the University of California Irvine).
The National Meeting honored outgoing NAE vice president Corale Brierley for her dedication and service of eight years. She will continue to serve in other areas of the NAE. We welcomed new NAE vice president Wesley Harris, C.S. Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and housemaster of New House Residence Hall at MIT, where he was previously associate provost and head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Wes will begin a new term July 1, 2022.
During the symposium, I was delighted to hear from fellow NAE member Gywnne Shotwell, President and COO of Space X, about “What’s After Mars.” She predicted that space exploration to Mars is near term and her talk certainly engaged the audience in the considerations and risks it would take to make travel to Mars possible.
Allison Barto, director of Ball Aerospace, kicked off the Gilbreth Lectures with her talk on the future of space-based astronomical observations. She pointed out the significance of the Hubble telescope in providing the most fruitful astronomical data to date, and said that the James Webb telescope that launched on December 25 might shed new light on questions such as the origins and evolution of galaxies. Keren Bolter, an urban and coastal resiliency expert for Deltares USA, addressed the need to effectively communicate the risks of sea level rise, noting that even if all emissions ceased today sea level rise would continue. Annabelle Singer, McCamish Foundation Early Career Professor at Georgia Tech and Emory University, shared novel techniques to identify and restore failures in brain activity that lead to memory impairment. She discussed promising discoveries made from rodents and how those non-invasive approaches can treat diseases like Alzheimer’s. Rebecca Kramer-Bolliglio, John J. Lee Associate Professor at Yale University, explained her investigation of how to create more adaptive robots using soft skins that can adapt to changing tasks and environments. In 2019 she received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the US government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their professional careers.
The range of research questions investigated and designs explored by the lecturers was impressive and exemplary work pushing toward creating research initiatives that will yield significant advances in the years to come.
During the Gilbreth lectures, the visiting students wore their thinking caps and asked probing questions of the lecturers. For example, after the presentation on the use of neural stimulation for Alzheimer’s patients, one student asked to what degree the ripples people experience when viewing computer screen refresh cycles might impact the pathways of the brain. The lecturers agreed that the students showed a robust interest in engineering and science and have promising futures ahead.
I was happy to see many students enjoying the games out on the lawn of the Beckman Center. Jenga and a beanbag toss were popular and sparked friendly competition among the students
I was also pleased to unveil the new logo for The Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering Program, which continues a long tradition of supporting early career engineers in their field to collaborate with other engineers around the world. The NAE recently announced the renaming and the generous donation from The Grainger Foundation to continue the work of this program for a very long time.
During the National Meeting I traveled on Von Karman Avenue, and its namesake inspires engineers as creators who embrace values that help create a better future. I was reminded again of Theodore Von Karman’s famous quote, “scientists study the world as it is, engineers create the world that never has been.”
I hope you visit the NAE’s site often to stay abreast of the latest happenings.
Photos courtesy of: Rasheed Riveroll Castillo, Cabrillo High School