Frank Incropera, H. Clifford and Evelyn A. Brosey Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and Matthew H. McCloskey Dean Emeritus at Notre Dame University, told Andover students that they are capable of developing technology to change the environment in the future during his NestED talk last Friday evening in The Nest.
He spoke to the Andover community about the future of robotics and the opportunities and challenges in engineering in the 21st century.
Saniya Singh ’18, who attended the talk, said, “For me, understanding how that is going to affect my life in the future and recognizing the challenges of the industry and this kind of career choice is something that was useful to me, especially from STEM point of view.”
Singh expressed her passion towards artificial intelligence, saying it was one of her main takeaways from the talk.
“I really enjoy understanding how artificial intelligence combined with robotics can improve our lives. Hitting all those points with medicine and how it improves that,” said Singh.
Other topics Incropera brought up were transitioning from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources by environmental engineering, the origins of robotics, and artificial intelligence.
Incropera relayed the fact that Earth will soon run out of fossil fuels — a nonrenewable energy source — and that transitioning to sustainable energy sources will not only decrease global warming, but create a cleaner environment as well.
“Making that transition is extremely important. If I were talking to you 15 years ago I would say that sometime, maybe in the 22nd century, we are going to have to make that transition. Talking to you today, I’m going to tell you that it’s important that we accelerate this transition,” said Incropera during his NestEd talk.
According to Incropera, more than 80 percent of energy consumed around the world comes from fossil fuels and only seven percent from sustainable energy sources like wind and solar power. Incropera said this needs to be raised to 50 percent in the next 20 years or so.
He discussed the origin of robotics, and transitioned to the emergence of artificial intelligence. He also talked about Amazon and Walmart’s money investment in robotics, automated surgical procedures, and autonomous vehicles.
“The artificial intelligence was interesting and collecting data because various things now, like with Fitbit and things like that, use artificial intelligence. Algorithms can know more about yourself than you do which is weird,” said Finn O’Kelly ’20, an attendee of the event.
Incropera also encouraged students to keep pursuing robotics and careers in engineering.
“20 years from now, you guys are going to be in the prime of your career. You’re going to be in leadership positions around the world and around the country, and if you maintain your involvement with technology, I am going to bet that many of you are going to be involved with developing the technology that will enable electrification to that extent,” said Incropera.
Incropera added, “Engineers are curious, resourceful, persistent, they know how to deal with failure. Whatever brings you [to The Nest], you’re coming in with your curiosity, you’re experiencing some additional failure, or at least I hope you are, and you’re using that failure as a learning opportunity. And you’re patient and you’re dogged because you know you have confidence in your ability to achieve what you set out for.”
Tackling difficult problems with students is the thing that Incropera enjoys most about his work, and says is the most rewarding part of working in a university setting.
Even if students are not interested in pursuing engineering, he asks all to be environmentally conscious. He recommends turning off the lights when leaving a room, walking or riding a bike when possible, and using public transportation.
He also asks for students to become politically involved, and says that he is most frustrated by the lack of political leadership in the area of environmental advancements.
“These seniors are 18 years old. They can write to their congressmen. They can get involved with local politics. They can state their opinions. I’m not advocating that they become politicians, but they can have a voice in the political spectrum,” said Incropera.
Incropera said, “Failure to recognize where the future lies in clean energies, that this is the future… The absence of political leadership in this country is troubling for me. Particularly as the rest of the world moves forward.”