12 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
A global future made brighter and better
by the skills and vision of engineers is
the theme of this year’s DiscoverE Engi-
neers Week celebration Feb. 21-27.
Founded by the National Society of
Professional Engineers in 1951, EWeek
focuses on creating a diverse and well-
educated future engineering workforce
by encouraging students to follow en-
gineering and technology career paths.
DiscoverE includes a coalition of more
than 70 engineering, education and cul-
tural societies, and more than 50 corpo-
rations and government agencies. IISE
is a long-time coalition member repre-
senting industrial and systems engineers.
Their aim is to raise public awareness of
engineers’ contributions to modern life
and promote recognition among par-
ents, teachers and students of the impor-
tance of an education in math, science,
engineering and technology (STEM)
This year’s EWeek theme, “Imagin-
ing Tomorrow,” is based on the idea of
engineers helping change the world with
creative, practical solutions to help tackle
climate change, secure cyberspace, and
develop and distribute vaccines.
One highlight of the annual week is
the Future City competition, to be held
virtually this year due to pandemic so-
cial distancing recommendations. The
project-based engineering education
program challenges middle-school stu-
dents to imagine, design, and build cities
of the future and use that engineering
design process to address civic and social
issues and advocate change in their com-
The project includes an essay on the
theme “Living on the Moon,” by de-
signing a lunar city using two moon re-
sources 100 years in the future. Teams
must construct a physical city model
based on their future city vision using
recycled materials and record a 7-minute
video about their city.
The competition includes the an-
nual Excellence in Systems Integration
award sponsored by IISE, won last year
by a team from The Gratton School in
Denair, California. The 2020 top prize
went to Norwell Middle School in Os-
sian, Indiana.
Last years competition included
more than 45,000 students from 1,500
middle schools in the U.S., Canada and
China. Of students taking part, 49%
were female and 33% are schools with
half their students or more enrolled
in reduced or free lunch programs.
To learn more, visit www.discovere.org/
Another Engineers Week highlight is
Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day on
Feb. 25, a worldwide campaign aimed
at engaging girls in engineering and in-
creasing their representation in STEM
education and professions. EWeek pro-
grams seek to achieve diversity in the
field with several target goals, among
them “Do Engineering Activities with
Students,” “Talk to Kids About En-
gineering” and “Be a (virtual) Role
DiscoverE also presented a report on
the common factors that motivate girls
to pursue STEM careers, “Despite the
Odds: Young Women Who Persist in
Engineering,” a comprehensive litera-
ture review conducted in partnership
with Concord Evaluation Group.
A link to the report and other re-
sources are available at www.discovere.
News from the field
The front line
Engineers Week keeps future in focus
Annual celebration includes virtual Future City, ‘Girl Day’ events
The team from The Gratton School in Denair, California, won the 2020 Future City
Excellence in Systems Integration award sponsored by IISE. This year’s competition is
being held virtually.
Photo courtesy of Future City
February 2021 | ISE Magazine 13
New tool can help prioritize COVID-19 care
Researchers’ algorithm targets patients who need ventilators, ICU stays
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretched
healthcare givers and supplies to the limit
in 2020, hospitals needed a way to pri-
oritize critical care for those who needed
it most.
To aid in that effort, researchers at the
University of California, Irvine, created
a machine learning tool that can deter-
mine which patients need intensive care
or ventilators most urgently. It is offered
for free to help healthcare organizations
save ICU beds and equipment for those
in greatest need.
The goal is to give an earlier alert to
clinicians to identify patients who may
be vulnerable at the onset,” said Daniel S.
Chow, an assistant professor in residence
in radiological sciences at UCI. He is first
author of the study published in PLOS
The model factors in a patients medi-
cal history with a healthcare facility’s
specific profile to determine the level of
care needed. It found the tools predic-
tions to be accurate about 95% of the
time at UCI Health.
“You have to talk to your specialists,
your doctors; you have to assess how
many beds you have available and come
together as a group to figure out how you
want to use the tool,” said Peter Chang,
the assistant professor in residence in
radiological sciences who designed the
machine learning model.
Researchers began collecting CO-
VID-19 data on patients in January 2020
and were able to produce a prototype
two months later. The model creates
an algorithm that includes pre-existing
conditions such as asthma, high blood
pressure and obesity along with hospital
test results and demographic data.
They tested the model both at UCI
Health and at Emory University in At-
lanta to apply it to different patient pop-
ulations. The team plans to expand the
tool to other institutions and use it for
further research.
“We might think about this tool in
terms of predicting the number of ICU
beds that we might need,” said Alpesh
N. Amin, a study author and the Thom-
as & Mary Cesario Chair of Medicine at
Most doctor visits clock in under 20 minutes
How much time do primary care physicians spend one-on-one with
patients? A study in the January issue of the journal Medical Care analyzed
timestamp data from electronic health records to measure exam lengths for
more than 21 million doctor visits in 2017. It found the mean time for an
exam was 18 minutes, with a median of 15 minutes. The researchers found
that the shorter scheduled appointments ran longer while the longer ones
often ended early; scheduled 10-minute visits ran over by an average of five
minutes, while scheduled 30-minute visits averaged less than 24 minutes.
The study’s findings suggest “scheduling inefficiencies in both directions,
according to the authors. “Primary care offices’ overuse of brief appointment
slots may lead to appointment overrun, increasing wait time for patients and
overburdening providers,” they wrote. “Longer appointments are critical
for clinically complex patients, but misallocation of these extended visits
represents potentially inefficient use of clinical capacity.
Prime Number
UCI researchers have created a machine-learning tool to help determine which
COVID-19 patients will need ventilators or intensive care.
Photo courtesy of Carlos Puma for UCI Health
14 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Ancient Vikings traveled to far-
off continents by sea under the
power of sail and oars. Their
former capital of Trondheim,
Norway, has a new way to travel
the waves: an autonomous elec-
tric ferry that was scheduled to
launch this year.
The small vessel produces no
emissions and “works like an el-
evator,” according to Erik Dyr-
koren, CEO of manufacturer
“It’s a fun way to move
around the city and very in tune
with future mobility,” he said.
“It will be attractive to cities as
they evolve.”
Passengers who need a lift
across the canal that separates
the city center and port can
press a button to call the boat, which charges its batteries as
it waits on the dock. The vessel can hold 12 passengers and
their bicycles, and takes less than a minute to make the short
crossing, saving pedestrians a 15-minute walk-around. And
the ride is free.
Zeabuz ferries use cameras with sensors to scan for obstacles
and operate via a navigation system similar to those used in sub-
marines and airplanes that monitors the speed and position of
the boat. Data is transmitted via 5G to a control center manned
by an operator who can summon help if needed.
“Complete autonomy, where you leave the machines to
themselves, is not really a scenario that anyone is talking about,
Dyrkoren said. “There will always be a human individual.
The ferry’s prototype was developed in 2018 by the Norwe-
gian University of Science and Technology, which formed Ze-
abuz in 2019. The effort is part of a growing movement world-
wide to use waterways for public transport in cities. Bangkok
plans to have electric ferries and water taxis in service this year,
and Uber is launching boat taxis on Londons Thames River.
Companies in Finland, France and The Netherlands are testing
their own autonomous ferries.
Susanna Hall Kihl, founder of Vattenbussen, a research and
advocacy organization for urban waterways, said such transit
optimizes existing space effectively while easing traffic on road-
“Historically, thats how we traveled,” she said.
the frontlinethe front line
Ride the waves in Norway on a robot ferry
Self-driving electric vessel offers a glimpse into future urban travel
The Zeabuz autonomous electric ferry offers up to 12 passengers a free ride across the canal in
Trondheim, Norway. It is part of a growing trend of waterway travel to ease urban transit.
Photo courtesy of Zeabuz
© 2019 Scott Adams, Inc. Used by permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication. All rights reserved.
February 2021 | ISE Magazine 15
Healthcare’s journey toward digital technology was already marching at a double-time pace early in
2020. Then the pandemic hit, forcing practitioners to look toward new ways to interact with patients
and use the tools available to provide accurate diagnoses and care. Authors Edward W. Marx and Paddy
Padmanabhan explore this evolution in Healthcare Digital Transformation: How Consumerism, Technology
and Pandemic are Accelerating the Future. This book is a reference guide for healthcare executives and
technology providers as they navigate the ongoing digital transformation of the healthcare sector. It
focuses specifically on the challenges and opportunities for health systems in this journey and draws
from proprietary research and public information. It includes interviews with more than 150 execu-
tives in leading health systems along with numerous technology and retail providers. The authors explore the important role
of technology and the impact of electronic health records systems, digital health innovators and big tech firms in the digital
transformation. It includes key lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, including efforts to adopt telehealth and virtual
care models. The authors provide a set of templates and frameworks for developing and implementing a digital road map with
case studies taken from innovative healthcare organizations to guide the way.
Healthcare Digital Transformation is published by CRC Press. $31.96.
A road map in the digital healthcare journey
Authors use COVID-19 examples, case studies in reference guide
Book of the Month
The boom-bust-boom roller coaster supply chains rode in
2020 could continue into 2021, according to experts cited in a
recent America Shipper article by Greg Miller at freightwaves.com.
Last year began with business on the rise, but the COVID-19
pandemic soon led to a slowdown in overseas container ship-
ping volume. After the shutdown ended, markets rebounded
strongly even as freighters remained backed up outside of some
West Coast U.S. ports.
Obviously, the surge in tanker rates in March and April
was great for profitability. But a lot of that was pulled-forward
demand,” Jefferies shipping analyst Randy Giveans said.
Because of the markets volatility at years end, experts are
divided on what this year will bring.
“It is clear that there is a mismatch between container vol-
ume growth and total sales,” Sea-Intelligence CEO Alan
Murphy said. “At some point in 2021, we are due for an in-
ventory correction.
He noted that total sales rose 2.2% year-on-year in October
but U.S. container imports were up 20.4%. S&P global-owned
Panjiva showed data that imports of consumer discretionary
products jumped 30% in November 2020 after growing 31.8%
year-on-year in October, while U.S. Commerce Department
gures showed retail sales up 4.1%.
“Retailers face a growing mismatch between sales and im-
port growth rates,” Panjiva senior analyst Christopher Rogers
said. “The ongoing surge in consumer goods imports raises
the risk of oversupplies and expanded inventories. That comes
as the U.S. port system, particularly on the West Coast, re-
mains congested, making late deliveries more likely.
Other experts are more optimistic, believing that consum-
ers may spend more on services than goods when the CO-
VID-19 threat fades due to vaccines and other remedies.
“Importers are not overshooting. They’re buying just to
break even with their sales throughout,” Deutsche Bank ana-
lyst Amit Mehrotra said. “And at some point in 2021 ... youre
going to see an incredible pent-up demand release.
As is normal during recessions, consumers reacted to lost
jobs and increased uncertainty by boosting their savings,
Evercore ISI Senior Managing Director Dennis DeBusschere
told clients in a research analysis. “As economic uncertainty
has declined, those pent-up savings have supported a rebound
in spending.
Supply chains volatile after 2020 ebb and flow
Shipping experts divided on whether 2021 will bring boom or bust
16 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Quote, unquote
COVID-19 remedy not just reliant on drugs
High compliance with voluntary quarantine – where the entire household stays home if there is a
person with symptoms or risk of exposure in the household – has a signicant impact on reducing
the spread. Shelter-in-place (SIP) puts the brakes on the spread for some time, but if people go back
to ‘business as usual’ after SIP, the significant impact is lost, so it needs to be followed up by voluntary
quarantine and other physical distancing measures. The takeaway message is that each of us have the power to control our
health by making the right choices. As individuals and as a nation, we often expect technological or medical fixes or cures to
health problems, whereas many of these problems, whether they are at the individual level or the public health level, are caused
by or exacerbated by our choices and behaviors. For many of them, we dont need a new fancy device, drug or technology to
make things better. As individuals, or households, or communities, we have the power and the responsibility to impact and
improve our own health, and the public health, by making healthy choices.
Pinar Keskinocak, an IISE member, William W. George Chair and industrial and systems engineering professor at Georgia Tech. She helped lead
a study published in the journal PLOS ONE that used state of Georgia data on COVID-19 cases and found a combination of non-pharmaceutical
interventions, with various levels of compliance, could, in some instances, cut cumulative infections in half and reduce the peak number of infections
by about a third. The study compared actual statistics to revised models of what could have happened without physical distancing. The team
included professor Nicoleta Serban and students Buse Eylul Oruc, an IISE member, and Arden Baxter.
the frontlinethe front line
Pinar Keskinocak
The health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been
measured in the grim daily counts of cases, hospitalizations and
deaths. But the virus’ toll on the mental health of millions is yet
another casualty in the crisis.
A team of researchers at MIT and Harvard have developed a
way to measure those effects by analyzing the language people
use online to express their anxiety. The machine learning sam-
pling of more than 800,000 Reddit posts looks for changes in
tone and the content of language used by people since the pan-
demic spread from January to April 2020. The analysis revealed
key changes in those conversations that included increased dis-
cussions of anxiety and suicide.
“We found that there were these natural clusters that
emerged related to suicidality and loneliness, and the amount of
posts in these clusters more than doubled during the pandemic
as compared to the same months of the preceding year, which
is a grave concern,” said Daniel Low, the study’s lead author
and a graduate student in the Program in Speech and Hearing
Bioscience and Technology at Harvard and MIT.
The analysis measured varied impacts on those who already
suffer from mental illness, which could help psychiatrists and
online moderators identify those suffering the most.
“When the mental health needs of so many in our society
are inadequately met, even at baseline, we wanted to bring at-
tention to the ways that many people are suffering during this
time, in order to amplify and inform the allocation of resources
to support them,” said study co-author Laurie Rumker, a grad-
uate student in the Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics
Ph.D. Program at Harvard.
Low and Rumker were among those in an MIT class, Ma-
chine Learning for Healthcare, that had conducted previous
research on ways to detect mental health disorders based on
people’s speech patterns. When the pandemic began, they fo-
cused their class project on several Reddit forums devoted to
mental illness.
“Reddit gives us the opportunity to look at all these subred-
dits that are specialized support groups,” Low said. “It’s a really
unique opportunity to see how these different communities
were affected differently as the wave was happening, in real
Using language-processing algorithms, researchers measured
the frequency of words associated with topics such as anxiety,
death, isolation and substance abuse, grouping online posts by
similarities of language.
The team learned that as the pandemic progressed, the lan-
guage in many mental health groups began to resemble that
of the health anxiety group from before the pandemic’s global
spread. They also found that groups related to attention decit
hyperactivity disorder and eating disorders suffered the most
negative effects, which researchers hypothesize was worsened
by a lack of the usual social support systems. The analysis could
help mental healthcare providers identify people most vulner-
able to declines in mental health caused by the pandemic and
other stressors, researchers said.
Machine learning tracks mental health in pandemic
MIT-Harvard project analyzes language used on social media sites
February 2021 | ISE Magazine 17
As scientists look to the skies to better
forecast severe weather, others are look-
ing underground to get a heads up before
a volcanic eruption or an earthquake.
Though radar satellites are able to col-
lect remote sensing data that can detect
ground movements at volcanoes to signal
impending activity, those measurements
can be clouded by atmospheric condi-
tions and instrumental disturbances.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State Uni-
versity have devised a way to use arti-
ficial intelligence to clear up that noise,
improving the real-time monitoring of
volcanic unrest.
The shape of volcanoes is constantly
changing and much of that change is due
to underground magma movements in
the magma plumbing system made of
magma reservoirs and conduits,” said
Christelle Wauthier, a Penn State associ-
ate professor of geosciences and Institute
for Data and Computational Sciences
faculty fellow. “Much of this movement
is subtle and cannot be picked up by the
naked eye.”
Challenges geoscientists face in mea-
suring seismic activity include costly
ground stations that must be installed
and maintained on a volcanic site.
“It’s hard to put a lot of ground-based
stations in a specific area in the first place,
but lets say there actually is a volcanic
explosion or an earthquake, that would
probably damage a lot of these very ex-
pensive instruments,” said Jian Sun, lead
author of the paper and a postdoctoral
scholar in geosciences, funded by Deans
Postdoc-Facilitated Innovation through
Collaboration Award from the College
of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
Those that use radar sensors must
travel through the atmosphere and can
encounter interference, particularly in
tropical climates. To counter this, re-
searchers developed a deep learning
method that takes clear pieces of data and
helps fill in the gaps from the “noisy”
data to build an accurate picture of the
land and its movements.
Sun said the method could provide
key insight into movements near active
volcanoes or earthquake zones and faults.
“It’s really important for areas close
to active volcanoes, or near where there
have been earthquakes, to have as ear-
ly warning as possible that something
might happen,” he said.
AI tool can help spot volcanic eruptions
Machine learning could help monitor and clean up underground signals
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