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					ENGINEERING




  Problem solving for
  the public good
  BY DARLENE MORALES

                                                                                                                                             Photo: Jupiterimages
  Don’t believe the hype: Engineers do work that inevitably makes life easier for other people. Even if they do like a beer now and then.




  E
       ngineers frequently fall victim to the         The device consists of a headset with mag-           food intake to see if they have an impact on
       worst kind of stereotyping:They’re either      nets on each side, and a device, “no bigger          creating abnormal cells.
       viewed as drunken beer-chugging male           than a grain of rice,” attached directly to the         “Running in the wheel appears to decrease
  chauvinists, or pocket-protector wearing            user’s tongue, both of which transmit via            the body’s production of chemicals that favor
  super-nerds.                                        wireless technology to a computer in the             abnormal cell growth,” explains Dr. Henry
     But anyone who’s studying to be an engi-         chair.When the user moves his or her tongue,         Thompson, director of the Cancer Prevention
  neer knows the truth can range very far from        the magnetic fields interact and the vehicle         Lab at Colorado State University (CO).
  the stereotype, as most engineers are not           moves in the direction of the tongue.                   Waterman spent two years developing
  only spared from routine work, but also get            Huo co-created the“Tongue Drive”with his          electrical and software circuits for the model
  creative, work in a team and design products        professor,Maysam Ghovanloo,who has a mas-            which is still in its experimental stage.He also
  and systems that are of great benefit to our        ter’s in biomedical engineering. Ghovanloo           helped create a brake for the wheel, which
  daily lives.                                        says that so far the device, which is still in its   controls its different speeds.
     In fact, engineers play an increasingly          developmental stages,has been well received.            “The exercise wheel has the potential to
  important role in society, says Leah Jamieson,         “The tongue doesn’t get tired that much, it       serve a real need,”Waterman says.“The experi-
                                                      acts very similar to the heart since they both       ence of doing something that has never been
  the John A. Edwardson, dean of engineering
                                                                                                           done before is important, plus the tangible
  at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.         have a small rate of exhaustion,” Ghovanloo
                                                                                                           results of the studies going to directly improve
     “From addressing sweeping global chal-           says. “And the Shepherd Centre in Atlanta,
                                                                                                           people’s health and lives are very rewarding.”
  lenges such as sustainable energy, restoring        Georgia has expressed interest in having
  the earth's environment and improving               some of its patients try out the device.”
                                                                                                           Creativity in motion
  healthcare to highly-personalized improve-             Huo understood the true meaning of his
                                                                                                              Contrary to the nerd stereotype, engineers
  ments in the quality of life for individuals,       invention when he spoke to an occupational
                                                                                                           are creative types,who get the opportunity to
  engineering will play a major role in every         therapist involved in testing.
                                                                                                           create in collaboration with a lot of other peo-
  aspect of 21st century life,”says the dean.            “He said, ‘You may not be able to see the         ple, including co-workers or consumers.
                                                      benefit of your work right now, but really              “People associate engineering jobs with
  Steering lives                                      what you’re doing might change the life of           math and science, but don't appreciate the
     Mechanical engineering student Xueliang          some people. One might give up the idea of           enormous creativity that goes into good
  Huo says he got into engineering to help            killing himself because he saw and used your         engineering,” Dean Jamieson says.“There is
  people.                                             device,’”Huo recalls.                                also an image of working alone, but team-
     “The willingness to use my knowledge to             But Huo’s not the only engineering student        work and collaboration are central to
  help people who need it and the curiosity           who sees past the keg parties to the true            engineering jobs today.”
  about how an engineer can contribute to             value of his career choice.                             But for Waterman, the main draw is being
  improve the quality of life for people, initially                                                        able to help other people solve problems.
  brought me to this field,” says Huo, who            Advancing health                                        “In the end, engineering is really about
  attends the Georgia Institute of Technology           Electrical engineering student Jay Water-          problem solving,” he says.“My education as
  (Atlanta, GA).                                      man is working on a project that could help          an engineer has let me improve my problem
     Huo has been working on a magnetic               prevent cancer in the future. He helped              solving skills across the board. It's all about
  device that allows people to steer their            develop the components of an “activity               coming up with creative,effective solutions to
  wheelchairs with their tongues for two years.       wheel” that measures physical activity and           problems.”

  16    SPRING 2009 jobpostings magazine

				
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