Sunday, December 28, 2014

Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century

Image from website
At the end of the year I like to gather information about the year's "greatest" inventions and innovations, and focus on those that are from the engineering fields of my students.

Last year I wrote about the top 5 finalists of the Engadget Insert Coin Competition (Posts from 29 December 2013 to 27 January 2014). The year before I wrote about Time magazine's "Best Inventions of the Year" (24 December 2012), which they publish every year in December.

This year, I decided to use information from a website created by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), which has listed - and given information for - their choices for the 20 greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century.

The website:

The information is based on the book, A Century of Innovation: Twenty Engineering Achievements That Transformed Our Lives, by George Constable and Bob Somerville (2003).

Students can first brainstorm what they think the twenty greatest achievements were, and can discuss their choices. Many - if not most - of their choices will certainly be on the NAE's list.

These achievements are:
  1. Electrification
  2. Automobile
  3. Airplane
  4. Water supply and distribution
  5. Electronics
  6. Radio and Television
  7. Agricultural mechanization
  8. Computers
  9. Telephone
  10. Air conditioning and refrigeration
  11. Highways
  12. Spacecraft
  13. Internet
  14. Imaging
  15. Household appliances
  16. Health technologies
  17. Petroleum and petrochemical technologies
  18. Laser and fiber optics
  19. Nuclear technologies
  20. High-performance materials

For each achievement, there is a Timeline spanning the development from invention to present day, separate sections of information about the achievement, and an Essay written by an engineer from the field of achievement.

This last resource is particularly useful for students, since the essays can serve as models for students' own writing: about the history of an innovation, the impacts of the innovation, or as an overview of an innovation in their engineering field.

The material on the website is also very useful for reading skills, since students will certainly be motivated to read about an achievement of their choice.

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