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Tech Day 2004 looks at America's passion: cars

Automobiles--how they're made, their problems and their effects on our lives--are the focus of "Shifting Gears," this year's Technology Day program for alumni on Saturday, June 5 in Kresge Auditorium.

"Cars are a prism through which you can view many aspects of American life and culture, said Keith McKay (S.B. 1997), head of the Technology Day Committee and managing director of Village Software in Boston. "Eighty to 100 years ago, the car was an elegant solution to a problem of the time. Now it's still a solution, but there are problems associated with it, and we need to look at whether it's still the right solution."

In a format change from recent Tech Days, the afternoon will feature a second panel discussion in Kresge rather than breakout sessions in other locations. "We didn't want to get too diffuse," McKay said, adding that in previous years, some participants said that they were disappointed at being able to attend only one of the simultaneous afternoon sessions.

The morning session in "Shifting Gears" will examine some of the challenges associated with the automobile, including mobility, environmental concerns, limited resources, impact on urban environments and issues facing an aging population. The afternoon session will invite participants to think about solutions to these issues.

The morning panel from 9 a.m. to noon, moderated by President Charles M. Vest, will feature:

  • Daniel Roos (S.B. 1961, S.M., Ph.D.) the Japan Steel Industry Professor, associate dean for engineering systems and co-director of the Engineering Systems Division
  • John B. Heywood (S.M. 1962, Ph.D.), the Sun Jae Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Center for 21st Century Energy and the Sloan Automotive Laboratory
  • Ralph A. Gakenheimer, professor of urban studies and of civil and environmental engineering
  • Joseph F. Coughlin, director of the New England University Transportation Centers Program (Region One), researcher in the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics and director of the MIT AgeLab

The afternoon program from 2:15 to 5 p.m. will be moderated by Norman R. Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp. Panelists will be:

  • Ernest J. Moniz, professor of physics and director of energy studies in the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment
  • William Mitchell, professor of architecture and head of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences
  • Anne Asensio, executive director of advanced design with General Motors Design
  • Dean Kamen, president of DEKA Research and Development Corp., chairman of Segway LLC and founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 2, 2004 (download PDF).

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