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Engineering Achievements: The Two Lists

Will the grand engineering challenges of the 21st century be unlike the greatest achievements of the 20th?

2 min read
Engineering Achievements: The Two Lists

In a speech to engineers about taking pride in our profession, I mentioned two lists of engineering achievements put together by the National Academy of Engineering. The older list ranks the 20 greatest engineering achievements of the last century. The newer list consists of 14 grand challenges to be accomplished by engineers in the present century.

As I walked out of the banquet hall, someone muttered, "I liked the old list better." That offhand comment started me thinking. I remember helping to put that list together. The achievements chosen and their rankings were based on the relative importance of their benefits to society. Electrical engineering figured prominently: fiber optics and lasers, household appliances, imaging, the Internet, telephones, computers, radio and television, electronics, and of course electrification itself. The new list has such challenges as securing cyberspace, preventing nuclear terror, advancing health informatics, making solar energy economical, reverse engineering the brain, and enhancing virtual reality.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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