Innovative engineering ingredients

Seven tips for spreading engineering innovation were relayed at NIWeek last month. Look for, learn, and apply game-changing technologies. What emerging technologies will seem, 30 years from now, as the Apple 2, Commodore 64, or TRS 80 do today? asked Dean Kamen, founder of Deka Research & Development Corp.


Seven tips for spreading engineering innovation were relayed in an afternoon panel at NIWeek last month.

1. Look for, learn, and apply game-changing technologies. What emerging technologies will seem, 30 years from now, as the Apple 2, Commodore 64, or TRS 80 do today? Inventions differ from innovations, noted Dean Kamen, founder of Deka Research & Development Corp. He says there only have been perhaps 400 innovations, such as fire, the wheel, movable type, petroleum, human flight, robotics, and... the "TV clicker."

2. Find ways to channel the best talent to engineering industries (wealth creation) rather than to financial industries (wealth transfer), said Glenn Derene, senior technology editor, Popular Mechanics . Hot areas that may attract talent include energy, environment, health care, and education. How can engineering help save humanity?

3. Encourage visionaries to invest for the long term in creative technologies , said Ellen Purdy, manager for test, analysis, modeling, and simulation for future combat system programs at the U.S. Department of Defense. Government policies should encourage platforms that enable innovations, such as the growth of fiber networks and the auctioning of the analog television electromagnetic spectrum.

4. Take risks. Innovation can wane as a society ages and people are less interested in taking risks. Younger people have more to gain and less to lose. Public policies can help make up for that tendency, helping us find the encourage to risk, Kamen said. He asked, "How many senators... are engineers? Where are you people? Get involved!"

5. Society needs to reward engineering. We're not going to continue to advance or sustain our standard of living if most kids choose professions that require little effort or education, Purdy said. Kamen asked if youth believe commercials? "'You deserve a break today.' 'Life is short. Play hard.' What happened to 'work hard?'" Kamen asked.

6. Explain engineering to young people. We all need to be evangelists, use fewer acronyms, and make engineering cooler and more interesting to all, Derene said. [Programs like FIRST Robotics can help , Kamen noted.]

7. Ensure we use engineering tools to protect what is good , not to inflict damage. David Barrett, Olin College associate professor of mechanical engineering and design, asked if we are investing in technologies, such as advanced robotic systems, that will help protect the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Put that way, we need engineering to preserve the USA and resolve global problems.

ONLINE extra

While Control Engineering is all about fostering innovation strategies, here are links to several other stories and resources you may find useful:

- Manufacturers call for federal strategy to transform factories ;

- Engineering company executives provide U.S. economic advice ;

- Engineering Labs Grow through Gifts and Partnerships ;

- Thought patterns: How to innovate like Edison .

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