Edward Shiao (3rd Quarter, 2009)

3rd Quarter, 2009
Edward Shiao
Engineering Scholarship

Edward always had a fascination with science and the natural world. As a result, he passed his time with science magazines and engineering books, but found his sanctuary in the mountains overlooking his hometown of Temple City, California. He graduated as part of the 2010 class of Temple City High School, California and will be moving halfway across the nation to begin his Mechanical Engineering education at Purdue University in Indiana. After college, he intends on following a career in Alternative Energies, namely Wind Power.

A Portion of Edward’s Winning Essay:

I grew up in an era where electronics and technology as a whole had hopped onto a rocket and taken off. This led to my inevitable interest in science fiction; my youthful fantasies included being a Jedi piloting an X-Wing on a mission to blow up a moon-sized space station and commanding my own Starship Enterprise. These, of course, were aspirations that every little nerdy child grew up with. But on a different level, the most fascinating thing about these fictional worlds and civilizations were not their military prowess or fancy tools it was the amazingly angelic cities that existed in perfect harmony with nature. Despite all the vehicles that filled the city or all the people who lived within it, these cities are always surrounded by lush forests or beautiful expanses of grasslands and clear blue lakes. Many of my peers laughed at my fascinations with these utopian worlds, but it was these images of perfect unity, rather than all the fancy lasers and explosions, which left deep impressions on me.

For the first ten years of my life, I lived in a world comprised mostly of school, tutoring, and homework. In this world, the homely white Toyota Camry that took me to and from school was unquestionably beneficial to the world; every one of my material goods ranging from my pencils to my favorite GI Joe action figure was created through completely marvelous and efficient means. The strange thing that I never quite understood was why the night sky above me was never littered with twinkling stars. But of course, what else can be expected from a city like Los Angeles? The City of Angels has a halo of its own one composed of Diesel PM (car exhaust), Benzene (used in the creation of lubricants, dyes, and pesticides), 1,3-Butadiene (used in synthetic rubbers such as car tires), and many other toxins. There was a massive change in my personal outlook on technology once I began to grasp the idea that the very technological leaps that provided me with all of modern societys physical comforts also took away the world natural ones. It didnt take very long for holes to appear in my rosy illusions of the world holes that provided me with a glimpse of the world as it really was.

In high school, I managed to pull myself out of that crumbling cage and found myself in the real world. I soon took an interest in the study of humanitys impact on the environment, overpopulation, pollution, and the world inability to sustain our species in regards to resource demand. Ever since as early as the 1950 the public has been gripped by the need to live greener, to leave a smaller carbon and environmental footprint; however, as I looked closer, I realized that the problem lay not only within our lifestyles, but our technological assets. Our entire civilization is based on the rapid consumption of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources; consequently, these forms of energy have led the world into a downward spiral in both energy and environmental costs. As such, the only way to amend this is to change the core of the problem: our inefficient technology and its energy source.

I grew up knowing that I was going to be an engineer, but it wasnt until high school that I realized what I really wanted to employ that knowledge to. Unlike many of the innovators of the past, I do not plan on creating machines that can produce an exponentially greater output; instead, I wish to lessen the cost of these technological marvels. Though it is wonderful to be able to sit down with relatives on the East Coast for dinner and still make it back for school in California the next morning, what good is a machine that can traverse the entire North American continent within a few hours if it causes monumental temperature fluctuations throughout the world? What good are immortal footprints on the surface of the moon if theyre not indications of a step toward slowing the mass extinction of countless organisms around the globe?

Nature and many scientific studies, however, have taught us that there are ways to combat climate change and its adverse effects. For example, erupting volcanoes occasionally send streams of sulfur particles into the stratosphere; these sulfur particles reflect much of the suns rays away from the Earth, and in turn, rapidly lower the global climate. Of course its not without its costs, but it goes to show that it is possible for geoengineers to orchestrate the cooling of the worlds temperature in a relatively short time span. What we cant do in a short period of time, however, is change the constant stream of pollution that comes from modern society.

We are too dependent on tools that consume energy taken from costly resources. Though we cannot rapidly change our rate of energy consumption, there is one variable that we can change: the energy source. If we can replace petroleum engines with engines that run on energy harnessed from the sun or from the friction between the wheel and the ground, society would be able to retain its transportation system without the environmental cost. If we can replace natural gasses, uranium ore, and coal with hydroelectric, geothermal, wind power, or biomass energy sources, society would be able to retain its ability to supply energy on a large scale without fearing resource depletion. Of course it’ll take more than just a simple shift in resources to reach a utopian society, but its a start.

I intend to contribute to this shift in energy resources through involvement with the development of wind power; along with solar energy and hydropower, wind power is one of the leading sources of alternative energy source in the world. Moreover, the development of wind power has been progressing at an amazing rate: over the last five years, wind energy has grown 28 percent annually the installed capacity doubles every three years. It is this amazing source of alternative energy that has shown the most promise and thus has earned my support. I intend on making contributions to both the design of the airfoil shaped blades on the wind turbines while also trying to find ways to lessen the adverse effects the resulting turbulence would have on the nearby environment. Seeing as how we have yet to balance the costs of efficiency with the resulting turbulences effect on the nearby temperature and humidity level, I believe that this field requires more researchers. After all, the more the personalities we have working in conjunction on a problem, the shorter and more enjoyable the journey.

Itd be a lie to say that my only motivation is to help develop better technology. My passion for saving the planet stems not from the fear that our lifestyle has been compromised, but rather from my love for nature. Living at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest, I was raised with a natural affinity for nature; I spend at least one day out of every week hiking or wandering through the mountains. The wilderness provides me with an escape from the stresses of school, social expectations and replaces them with a sense of peace and well-being. Many of my fondest memories include mountaineering or meditating under the shade of a tree while listening to the warblers calls and the bubbling of the rivers running nearby. Theres an intangible sense of peace and enjoyment that Nature bestows upon anyone who take the time to stop and relax in her arms; itd be a shame to give that up for anything, even if those things make life so much easier. In my attempt to give back to nature, I have participated in many environmental conservation projects such as garbage cleanup or reforestation with the Sierra Club and Tzu Chi, a Buddhist Compassion Relief group.

Thats not to say that Im doing this merely because of the enjoyment I derive from the natural world. I wholeheartedly wish to change technology because the world is populated by more than just humans; from the countless species of birds to the innumerable species of trees that they rest on, the planet is populated by many truly unique organisms. Sadly, in our rise up the technological tower, we have bumped countless other species off the face of the planet. To disregard their right to live portrays both an indifference to the beauty of life and disrespect for the complexity of the world.

My reason for becoming an engineer is simple. In essence, engineers are the true changers of the world. Leaders may shape policies or conquer nations, but it is the engineers who make this all possible. Debates upon the political floor may provide us with the incentive and the drive (or the opposite), but the responsibility to devise the methods with which to reach a goal lies with the engineers. Every time I read through an article from CNN.com, ScienceDaily.com, or listen to a lecture from TED.com, I realize that these teams of innovators are the main piston driving the world toward a brighter future. From creating affordable prescription glasses made of water to antibiotics that prevent millions of deaths a year, it is the engineers of the world who make the world a better place to live in. These successes compile upon one another, each raising our living standards to lofty heights above the savage garden where we started. I wish to take part in these teams and work toward the development of the world as a whole and to help shape leave it in a better condition than we found it.

Through engineering, I wish to learn not just Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, or any other subjectI wish to learn to think not just outside the box, but anywhere in close proximity to it. I wish to learn how to think critically, how to make sound decisions based on forethought, how to solve any problem that I come across. Engineers are heralded for their innovativeness, their ability to work both around and through problems in new and interesting ways. I wish to develop such abilities which I would then be able to apply in my professional life and my own personal life. Critical thinking and innovation are the tools that humanity has used to climb the tower of technological advances; it is a combination of the two that I wish to grasp.

Our modern marvels have all been measured in labor costs, material costs, and many other factors, but what many of our engineers have forgotten to include is the effect technological development would have on the most important thing of all: our environment; this applies even to our turn to green alternative energy sources. I aspire to work in shaping our technology towards a more environmental-friendly path by helping to minimize the costs and contributing to the efficiency of wind power. Regardless of what anyone else believes, we all live on a big ball of green and blue without an exit strategy in the event that we run out of resources to exploit. Even if global warming is not caused by humanity, there is always still room for improvement. In a world graced with something as beautiful as nature, itd be a crime to lose any of it for any reason. An engineer must take a projects costs into considerations and so far, the environmental costs have been far too high. I aim to change that.

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