University of Pittsburgh
April 4, 2001

PITT FRESHMAN ENGINEERS CONDUCT "PROFESSIONAL" CONFERENCE Papers to Examine Sustainability in Dozens of Industries

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, April 5 -- More than 300 University of Pittsburgh freshman engineering students will participate in their first "professional" conference, "Sustainability in the New Millennium," on Saturday, April 7, at Pitt's Benedum Hall, O'Hara Street, Oakland.

"We're literally holding the equivalent of a professional conference for our freshmen," said Larry Shuman, professor and associate dean for academic affairs. "I don't know of any other engineering school that has this type of activity for their freshmen."

Nearly 180 freshman projects in two dozen disciplines will be presented in a format designed to simulate professional society paper presentations. Freshmen, in teams of two, prepared written reports on sustainability issues in energy, the environment, computers, transportation, medicine, communications, manufacturing, aviation, and physics, and will defend their papers orally at their sessions.

"Sustainability has become an important consideration in nearly every industry," said Dan Budny, professor and academic director of the freshman program in Pitt's School of Engineering, one of the organizers of the event.

The conference session chairs consist of engineering alumni and working professionals who have agreed to lend their expertise to the program. Joseph Romm, director of the nonprofit Center for Energy and Climate Solutions and executive director of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Pollution Prevention and Waste Minimalization Board, will present the keynote address. Romm

co-managed the billion-dollar Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the DOE, the largest program in the country for developing distributed energy technologies. Romm is author of the first book to benchmark corporate best practices in climate mitigation, "Cool Companies: How the Best Businesses Boost Profits and Productivity By Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions," and "The Internet Economy and Global Warming," which examines the impact of

e-commerce on energy use.

"The conference is the culmination of a complete overhaul of the freshman engineering curriculum, which Pitt completed this past year," said Budny. "The new curriculum incorporates the active and team learning approaches advocated by the National Science Foundation as a more effective method of teaching science and engineering."

Budny and three colleagues were honored last night by the Carnegie Science Center with an award for excellence in science education for their work in re-vamping the freshman curriculum.

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Highlights of the conference

• An analysis of ways to detoxify the current stores of the chemical weapon sarin, which was produced and stockpiled by many nations after its discovery by a Nazi scientist in World War II, and to regulate the raw materials used in manufacturing the deadly nerve agent;

• A study on the costs, benefits, practicality, and reliability of high-tech biometric methods such as voice recognition, infrared facial thermo grams, iris scans, retinal scans, and fingerprints to provide unique, personalized methods of ensuring security;

• An exploration of high temperature superconductors, which hold promise as more efficient means of conducting electricity—as much as five times the capacity of current cables—and an analysis of ways to incorporate superconductive materials in generators and motors;

• A study on acid rain, which examines harm done to the environment, to humans, and to industry by the problem, and explores ways to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, such as coal scrubbing and flue gas desulfurisation;

• An examination of the role of polymers in generating solar power, in creating new types of timed-release medication, and as a cost-effective and more environmentally friendly material to be used in manufacturing; and

• An analysis of computer applications in bioengineering, including bio-systems modeling such as neural networking and brain mapping, genetic sequencing and genome mapping, and an overview of biological imaging techniques.

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