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Appropriate Technology: Engineering For The 21st Century

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.109.1 - 3.109.6

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Carl A. Erikson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1360

Appropriate Technology: Engineering for the 21st Century

Carl A. Erikson, Jr. Messiah College Engineering Department Grantham, PA 17027


According to the ABET Engineering Criteria 2000, engineering graduates of the 21st century must demonstrate eleven important attributes of an engineer. This paper deals with one of them: "the broad education necessary to understand the impact of the engineering solutions in a global/societal context"[1].

The engineer of the 21st century must be an appropriate technologist /engineer to succeed in the global environment, whether it be in a city in the Western World or a Third World rural area. Several specific examples will be given to demonstrate what appropriate technologists/engineers do to meet the needs of the global village. These examples are taken from two Appropriate Technology courses, one which fulfills part of the General Education requirements under the Science, Technology, and the World framework for non-technical majors, and the other is an engineering major elective.


The first step in the engineering design process is finding and defining a need to solve. One does not have to look very far to find the many needs of the global village we live in; building adequate shelter, overcoming hunger, providing health services, purifying drinking water, supplying alternative energy in an economical way, building economical transportation devices, etc. Many people think that sophisticated technical solutions are the only way to solve a real need. However, in many countries, social, cultural, political, and economic inputs can override any elegant technical solution and prevent the solution from being implemented or used at all. For example, the lack of and cost of batteries in much of Africa makes portable radios of little use to its rural inhabitants. However, hand-cranked radios which use a mainspring to drive a little dynamo are highly functional and desired because of their low cost. These radios allow a circle of mud huts to "zip back into the Information Age with a twist of the wrist"[2].

The engineer of the 21st century must be an appropriate technologist /engineer to succeed in the global environment, whether it be in a city in the Western World or a Third World rural area. What are appropriate technologies? They are "local, self-help, self-reliant technologies that local people choose, which they can understand, maintain, and repair. They are generally simple, capital saving, labor enhancing, and culturally acceptable. Ecologically, appropriate technologies

Erikson, C. A. (1998, June), Appropriate Technology: Engineering For The 21st Century Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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