Introductory reading/writing assignment

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Introductory reading/writing assignment
A Day-One assignment for Engineering Innovation should be a reading/writing assignment. There are three main objectives to this assignment:
1) To engage students in the process of assembling and communicating ideas in writing. The process involves exploring the ideas of others (reading), evaluating them in terms of one’s own experiences and thoughts, and assembling them as a written document (writing). Of course, the topic should be related to engineering, technology, and/or education.
2) To provide a common topic for discussion early in the course, and to encourage the offering of personal ideas and strategies.
3) To provide instructors with an early indicator of whom their students are in terms of their ideas, their communication skills, and their potential role in the class dynamic.
Instructors may develop their own assignment. But it should result in a 3-5 page essay which is evaluated for clarity of thought, organization of ideas, grammar, and syntax.

Below are two example assignments:

Option 1: Friedman Essay

Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat paints a rather sobering picture of America’s declining ability to compete in a global economy. In part, he attributes this decline to three factors: our waning emphasis on science/engineering, our complacent attitudes toward work and academic excellence, and our “Brittany Spears” values (Chinese youth idolize Bill Gates.)

Essay assignment: Two options:

1) Read Friedman, Thomas, “It’s a Flat world after all”


Read Florida, Richard “The World is Spiky” (Atlantic Monthly, October 2005).

Then in a two to three page essay, elaborate on Friedman’s view of America’s preparedness and future in engineering; then suggest how we might reinforce our educational efforts to address the problem. How do we change the culture? What must we do in K-12 and university curricula to help alleviate the problem? Who must lead the way? How and where must it begin? You will need to make specific reference to the book or articles to support your statements. This is not to be a book report! We’re interested in your perspective having read and understood Friedman’s and Florida’s arguments. A class discussion will follow. Be prepared to express your ideas.

Option 2: Extreme Weather Essay.

Option 2 for First Essay Assignment in EI-2014
This has been quite a year for extreme weather. On March 11, 2011, there was a major earthquake off the coast of Japan. This 9.0 magnitude quake caused a massive tsunami. This caused 30-45 ft waves to crash into the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The entire plant was flooded, including low-lying generators and electrical switchgear in reactor basements and external pumps for supplying cooling seawater. The connection to the electrical grid was broken as the tsunami destroyed the power lines. All power for cooling was lost and reactors started to overheat, owing to natural decay of the fission products created before shutdown.

The nuclear power plants in Japan were designed and built to withstand an earthquake of magnitude of 8.2 on the Richter scale; however, the earthquake was around 9.0 (about 7x as strong). Previously, the highest magnitude ever to hit Japan was only 7.9.

This spring there has been flooding along the Mississippi River. The Army Corps of Engineers said that levees performed as designed when the swollen Mississippi River threatened, and the worst of the flood threat has passed. and fortunately the catastrophic flooding that was expected was averted.

To keep waters out of Morgan City and surrounding parishes along the river, low levees were shored up and a sunken barge was placed across a critical bayou. This kept one area from needing to rely on its emergency levees and sandbag walls

On April 27th and 28th, 2011 tornadoes and thunderstorms tore through the South. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, estimated there were 173 tornadoes, a new record for a single storm system in modern times.

The twisters rampaged through cities like Tuscaloosa, Ala., killed at least 300, forced a pair of nuclear plants to go offline, left thousands homeless and more than a million people without power.

NOAA said it was the worst tornado outbreak since 1974, when storms killed 315 people. The deadliest tornado outbreak on record was on March 18, 1925, when 695 people died.

These incidents are amazing examples of why engineering is important and the impact that engineers can have on public safety, on a company’s financial success, on public health, the environment, small business, and the government! Engineers truly can change the world, but only if they are strong critical thinkers and can react to all sorts of complex problems.

Essay: As scientists continue to collect more data about the climate, we are expecting to see predictions for more severe weather. How will engineers prevent catastrophic failure of their structures and minimize disaster? What if the severe weather predictions are incorrect? What is the impact of the predictions being too high? What is the impact of the predictions being too low? Is it possible to have too much protection?

Please write an essay addressing the above questions. Please consider the types of resources that you use carefully and make sure to cite them in your assignment. Newspaper articles in addition to the internet will probably be helpful. Please do not limit yourself to the two articles referenced here. Your assignment should be 2 pages typed, double-spaced and single sided. Font size should be 12 and margins should not exceed 1” in any direction.

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