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Unformatted text preview: 12 SUMMER 2004 T HE B ENT OF TAU BETA PI by Drs. John H. McMasters and Russell M. Cummings, Colorado Zeta 77 OR MUCH OF THE 20th CENTURY, advances in aeronautics and then aerospace have served as a sort of poster child for modern technologi- cal progress. More recently, however, a spate of national studies and articles in both the popular and professional presses 1, 2 has decried the seri- ously declining state of aerospace in general and aeronautics in particular in this country. Whatever the reasons for the putative decline in aerospace, two funda- mental factors are cause for serious immediate concern. The first factor is that we as a technical community within aerospace and aeronautics have been unable to create a collective vision of our future as compelling and exciting as that which has driven our past. The technological dreams of Star Trek and the quest for the discovery of life on Mars or elsewhere in our universe are an exception. A second factor, reciprocal to the first, is the need for an aggressive means to replenish and sustain our pool of technical tal- ent. This is required to maintain and advance an industry that continues to find a multi-billion-dollar-a-year market for its products and services, has almost singularly con- tributed a positive balance of trade to our economy, and is of fundamental importance to our national security. The pool of skilled practitioners is aging and retiring, and there is severe competition for both young and experienced tal- ent in key technical areas (design, systems and computer engineering) from seemingly more dynamic sectors of our national and global economy. A central concern for our his- torically volatile and ever changing enterprise must be for the education and development of a future generation of practitioners as skilled and motivated as those who have created our history. The authors have spent the great majority of our ca- reers as aeronautical engineers and engineering educators and became acquainted under the auspices of the Boeing- Welliver faculty summer fellowship program 3 in 2000. Dis- mayed by the bad press attendant to the major changes in fortune of our industry during the past decade, we began collaborating on a series of writings 4-9 under the general rubric: The Demise of AerospaceWe Doubt It. As our initial series of publications developed, so has our agenda that now includes making modest contributions to: 1. The national need of our aerospace community to revi- talize itself by creating a more vividly positive vision of its future, as a means to 2. Attract a next-generation technical workforce in aero- space that possesses a much broader multi-disciplinary and systems engineering perspective aided by 3. Reform and enhancement of our technical education system (beginning at the elementary-school level) to 4. Attract and retain a diverse student population ( espe- cially women and minorities ) that reflects the shifting de- mographics of our society.mographics of our society....
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- Fall '08