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Unlocking the Heart of Engineering Grand Challenges: Listening to the Quiet Voices

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Ethical Perspectives on the Grand Challenges of Engineering

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1582.1 - 22.1582.10



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Paper Authors

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George D. Catalano State University of New York, Binghamton

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Unlocking the Heart of Engineering Grand Challenges: Listening to the Quiet VoicesAccording to the National Academy of Engineering, the list for the Grand Challenges forEngineering are: (1) Make solar energy economical; (2) Provide energy from fusion; (3)Develop carbon sequestration methods; (4) Manage the nitrogen cycle; (5) Provide accessto clean water; (6) Restore and improve urban infrastructure; (7) Advance healthinformatics; (8) Engineer better medicines; (9) Reverse-engineer the brain; (10) Preventnuclear terror; (11) Secure cyberspace; (12) Enhance virtual reality; (13) Advancepersonalized learning; and (14) Engineer the tools of scientific discovery. Surely, it maybe difficult to find many who would find any reason to disagree with the identification ofany of these topics for both the present and future engineers. Rather than object to what isincluded, I would like to raise the issue of what has been neglected in this list and far toooften in engineering – listening to the quiet voices that speak from within each of us fromour heart. I am suggesting the act of listening as one additional entry for this mostimportant list.In my view, one set of skills that our profession does not encourage very well is stoppingand listening -- stopping and listening to each other, stopping and listening to life aroundus, or stopping and listening even to ourselves. This is a skill that, given the pace of ourmodern society, technological advances and our cultural conditioning, must be cultivatedfor it likely will simply either never develop or quickly wither away. The question athand then becomes how does one cultivate the ability to stop and to listen? The presentwork offers one such path though clearly there are countless others.

Catalano, G. D. (2011, June), Unlocking the Heart of Engineering Grand Challenges: Listening to the Quiet Voices Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18820

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