Archive for February, 2011


audio: A conversation on engineering for change

Engineering for Change ( is an initiative to connect, collaborate, solve challenges and share knowledge among a growing community of engineers, technologists, social scientists, NGOs, local governments and community advocates, who are dedicated to improving the quality of life all over the world.

Click below to listen to my talk with Noha El-Ghobashy, E4C chief architect and president of Engineering for Change.

Noha El-Ghobashy Interview Part I (10 min)

Noha El-Ghobashy Interview Part II (10 min)


inciting change

 My March column from Mechanical Engineering magazine:

The recent revolt by the Egyptian people against their government had been in the making for decades, but many believe the tipping point can be traced to the government’s temporary block on Internet usage leading to the removal of social media outlets, and to the government shutdown of cell phone networks.

The ability to obtain information and to communicate it is not a privilege but a right for citizens of free democracies. A taste of it makes doing without it intolerable. Crowdsourcing examples throughout the world have been shown to move people to action and to lead social change, as the free flow of ideas enriches people intellectually and expands their prospects for bettering themselves.

Engineering for Change (E4C), itself an important movement that ASME recently unveiled and the basis of our cover story this month, is the backbone of an initiative aimed at enabling social change in the developing world—from the ground up. The notion behind E4C is that enhancing local living conditions—through such steps as improving the infrastructure, accessing clean water, bettering sanitary conditions, and moving to eliminate “energy poverty”—empowers residents of the developing world to wield more control over their lives.

E4C provides the virtual infrastructure, at, for engineers and other technology savvy users of the Web site to contribute possible solutions, comments, advice, and expertise to meet particular challenges addressed in specific locales around the world.

The significant support for E4C from ASME’s partners, Engineers Without Borders and IEEE, is indicative of the very nature of the initiative. That is, without collaboration, it can’t reach the heights of success that it promises. E4C is a platform connecting problems on the ground in local communities across the globe with engineers, social scientists, and others who can help work out the solutions.

The E4C ecosystem includes non-governmental organizations and local community advocates on the ground that can define the problems and implement the solutions. Its strength is working with those who need and want change locally. E4C also works in concert with other organizations that are already helping people as part of what is described as the humanitarian space.

Engineering for Change represents the central component of a broader ASME initiative, Engineering for Global Development, which incorporates elements of the Society’s strategic priorities in the areas of energy, engineering workforce development, and global impact and outreach.

Transformative events, whether they are organizational or social in nature, stem from individuals who care enough to be heard. Your involvement is critical to Engineering for Change, since without your input E4C becomes a beautiful kitchen without a cook. More importantly, your involvement is critical to those who need your help in order to be able to help themselves.

See post above for my two-part audio interview with Noha El-Ghobashy, the chief architect and president of Engineering for Change.


PROJECT CROWDSOURCING, phase 1 ends this month

Mechanical Engineering Magazine’s Project Crowdsourcing is nearing the end of Phase I. If we haven’t heard from you yet, please send us your input by the end of February so you can have a say on the editorial content of the December issue of the magazine. Leave your input here, or send us an e-mail at MEMAG@ASME.ORG.

This is how Project Crowdsourcing works:

Phase I. Until the end of February we are conducting an online discussion to collect your ideas for articles and themes based on ASME’s three strategic initiatives–energy, engineering workforce development, global impact and outreach. At the end of February we will unveil a list of potential articles from the feedback you’ve given us.

Phase II. In March and April you will have the opportunity to vote on these article ideas and determine which six you want us to publish.

Phase III. From May through November we will recruit authors for the articles and work with them to prepare the articles for publication.

Phase IV. In late November, the December 2011, crowdsourced issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine will be mailed to subscribers.

You can provide your comments via four methods:

[1] Here on (leave your comments below)

[2] Visit the Mechanical Engineering magazine Facebook page at (please use caps)

[3] E-mail us at

[4] Post a comment on and use the hashtag #MEcrowdsource

Crowdsourcing reminds us that the ability to influence change rests within us. We look forward to your input and to what we hope will be an important dialogue.

MORE INFORMATION ON CROWDSOURCING AND OUR INITIATIVE (adapted from the December 2010 magazine’s Editorial):

Hours following the earthquake in Haiti last year, streams of text messages flew throughout the ravaged island nation with cries for help. Reports of trapped people, fires, polluted water sources, and requests for food, water, and medical supplies were transmitted in real time. Web sites were set up to help first responders react to the needs on the ground.

Two years earlier, during a post-election crisis in Kenya, a Web site, Ushahidi—meaning “testimony” in Swahili—was developed to map reports of violence. Since then the site has grown into a platform collecting and visualizing information and bringing awareness to crisis situations throughout the world, including Haiti.

These are examples of crowdsourcing, which uses the power of unconnected people with similar interests and empowers community voice toward a specific goal. In the case of Ushahidi, the Web site utilized human resources on the ground to inform authorities and the world of violence in Kenya. In Haiti, eyewitnesses strengthened relief efforts by acting as on-the-ground reporters for authorities and agencies deploying help to the earthquake’s victims.

Driving the process of crowdsourcing is social media. Twitter and Facebook, along with cell phones, are its tools. The messages are curated to deploy necessary resources and a move to action ensues.

We have embarked on a unique initiative called Project Crowdsourcing. The end result will be that our readers will determine the content of the December 2011 issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine.

We don’t presume that our crowdsourcing experiment has the depth of social impact that the projects in Haiti and Kenya have had. Our motivation is to build on the engineering esprit de corps. We are empowering our community of readers to tell us what’s important.

The only parameter to this project is that the ideas for articles be focused on at least one of ASME’s three strategic initiatives. That is, they should be related to energy, engineering workforce development, or global impact and outreach.

The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

February 2011

Twitter from John Falcioni

Twitter from Engineering for Change