Tomorrow’s engineers and today’s innovators are pursuing specialized education and career options that were never available, until now. The future is here. Technology that was once considered science fiction is reality—uniting engineering and medicine in cross-disciplinary collaborations is revolutionizing the field of prosthetics.
You look up at the night sky and watch a tiny dot moving across, it can't be a bird, or a plane, way too small and too far away. “Could that be a satellite? Did I just watch a UFO?” You ponder, nope. In all probability, what you just saw was the International Space Station—the grandest and most expensive construction project ever attempted by humanity.
Robotics are changing the face of almost every industry, with the manufacturing sector appearing to benefit the most. In fact, some people refer to this age as the “fourth industrial revolution,” and for a good reason. If the current statistics are anything to go by, then you’d be right to say that we are in the age of robotics. On a global scale, data shows that a whopping 1.3 million industrial robots have made their way into factories.
A natural refinement to the invention of the wheel, gears were thought to have been invented by the Greeks. Philosopher and scientist, Aristotle, wrote about a rotating wheel that turned another wheel in the opposite direction in the fourth century B.C.E. By the third century B.C.E., water wheels and clocks were common on the Greek peninsula. Yet, the first specific mention of gears in Greek writings occurred around 50 C.E. by Heron of Alexandria, a mathematician and inventor. Heron is most renowned for Metrica, a three-volume compendium of observations of the mathematics and engineering of Babylonia, ancient Egypt, and the Greco-Roman world.
Engineers face a constant barrage of competing priorities from customers, co-workers, managers, and vendors, all while still juggling family life and personal issues. Life satisfaction and productivity are on a steady decline for engineers, because external pressure and digital distractions make it impossible to maintain creativity, focus, and a work-life balance. The daily demands at work, including emails, notifications and text messages, are continually interrupting workflow and diverting attention. Consistent productivity disintegrates as time spent deeply focusing lessens.
Charles Bolden, a former space shuttle commander and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator from 2009 to 2017, dreamed of being the first person on Mars when he first checked in for astronaut training in 1980. At the time, NASA thought that a crewed Mars mission was thirty years away. Of course, we know now that prediction was overly optimistic. Yet there have been technological advancements and a renewed interest in human exploration of the Red Planet in the past few years. How soon could a Mars mission be possible, and what technology will NASA need to make it a reality?
As an industry, VR formed a massive bubble in the last decade that is now popping, investors having poured tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars into barely viable business models whose speculative values soared initially, but have now crashed to earth. One need only recall Google Cardboard and other early but now defunct efforts at VR headsets, or more recently the overinflated promises of Magic Leap, to see that the arc of the virtual reality industry has mimicked the early frenzy of the dotcom boom. On the bright side, those brief and less than inspiring toys prepared us for what it to come–advancements in entertainment, education, and training. As a technology that will find an important, permanent place in society, the best days of virtual reality are unquestionably ahead of us.
In the first couple of years of academic life, mechanical engineering students are focused on gaining a scientific understanding of the universe. They will typically study physics, calculus, thermos dynamics, fluids, etc., and then transition to the practical application of the principles they learned by gaining skills in various disciplines like material science, CAD and the basics of design. All the study culminates with a capstone project that helps them begin to move from theory to practical application. It is a stepping stone toward becoming a professional engineer. They apply what they learned to the process of ideation, prototyping, and building something in the real world, and if they are successful they graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering.
There has never been a greater need for creativity in the workplace. Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, but the difficulty of problems is also growing. Individuals who can think abstractly and solve difficult problems are rare and valuable. In many businesses, competitive advantages are not found in equipment and capital but in the creative minds of their teams. Creativity is the new barrier to entry into any competitive market.