Engineering For Tomorrow
Jonathan Berthiaume, Mount Pleasant, SC
Third Place (grades 7-9)
As the world population increases, so does the demand for resources, such as energy and food. Engineers have developed good systems to acquire these resources, but later on the technology used today will not suffice. It is up to the earth’s engineers to devise new ways to get these essential resources. By the year 2020, engineers will have developed better systems to obtain food, water, and energy, and also manage waste.
The lack of food in the world will pose a big problem as earth’s population keeps rising. The current solution to this problem is genetically modified, or GM, foods. GM foods are produced by inserting specific genes into a food-producing plant. These plants demonstrate improved crop characteristics, such as annual yield and pest resistance. On the other hand, GM foods are somewhat of a risk, because people may develop unanticipated, and sometimes severe, allergic reactions to the new substances in their food. However, in the future, chemical engineers will create better fertilizers to grow more food and better preservatives to keep them fresh longer, without the risk.
There is also the matter of the lack of water. Although it may seem that there is plenty of water here in the United States, there are many places in the world that receive little rainfall and are dealing with a severe lack of water. Because over 80% of the world’s fresh water is contained in ice caps at the poles, one proposed solution to this problem is to melt glaciers to turn them into drinkable water. This option will require many talented engineers to figure out a way to melt the glaciers and extract the water from them. If this succeeds, there will always be plenty of water everywhere on Earth.
Even with the food and water problems solved, however, there will still be the matter of providing energy to the whole globe. Currently, there are many different sources of energy, but none are perfect. Nuclear energy is effective, but leaves radioactive waste that is not biodegradable. Wind energy is a "cleaner" approach, but its sources are very limited. Hydroelectric energy is a good source, but it would not be available for use in dry places, such as Africa, where electricity is most needed. Engineers are working on the solution - A nuclear fusion reactor called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, which could supply nearly endless energy to the entire world.
One last problem, even after everyone on earth has been provided with food and energy, is waste. Nowadays, the average American produces 4 pounds of waste every day. This means that about 600,000 tons of waste are generated in the United States every single day. Engineers are trying to find effective ways to get rid of all this waste because we will eventually run out of room to put it. A popular answer to this is improving recycling factories to increase the production of recycled goods.
Between now and the year 2020, engineers will have their hands full with projects to improve the earth. Engineers have had a lot of challenges in the past, but they have solved them all and I am confident that they will keep doing so for a long time in the future.
France gets nuclear fusion plant. Available http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/ 4629239.stm, June 28, 2005.
Genetically Modified Foods. Available http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_ modified_food, January 19, 2006.
Population Clocks. Available http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html, January 3, 2006.
Tynes, Mary. Why Not Throw It Away? Available http://www.mastercomposter.com/ purpose/throwout.html, 2005.