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Steif writes textbook aimed at engineering students

A new textbook has been written by Carnegie Mellon’s Paul S. Steif, a professor of mechanical engineering. The book, titled Mechanics of Materials and published by Pearson, aims to be visually appealing, as it involves depictions of everyday experiences with simple objects. This combination of visuals and simple examples is designed to help students grasp fundamental engineering concepts with ease. According to a press release, Steif hopes to help students relate engineering concepts to many real-world engineered systems, such as wind turbines and devices that physicians use to fix broken bones. When creating the new textbook, Steif focused on visuals and images, a different path than most textbooks follow.

“I wrote a new textbook for engineering students to help demystify the subject and to take an approach more in sync with learning styles of a generation of students who literally grew up on the Internet,” Steif said in a press release.

Mechanics of Materials is being published at a time when government officials are trying to address the nation’s engineering shortages. According to a university press release, the U.S. President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness announced in August that 50 leaders of companies from Corning Inc. to Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel want to increase the number of engineering internships they offer.

CMU’s Gaynor to head new Health Care Cost Institute

Heinz College professor Martin Gaynor will serve as chairman of the new Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). The HCCI, launched Sept. 20, is an independent, nonprofit research initiative. It will give researchers access to data regarding commercial costs and utilization as well as conduct its own research.

Gaynor is the E.J. Barone Professor of Economics and Health Policy in Heinz College. According to a press release, he believes that the HCCI will give researchers access to more data and analysis on what factors drive health care costs, compared to health care currently available through Medicare and Medicaid. The HCCI will record de-personalized data from private insurers Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, and United Healthcare as well as government data; the organization will then synthesize the data to create its own “scorecards.” These scorecards will be available to researchers by 2012 and will contain analysis on aggregate trends of health care cost and utilization, intended to inform policy decisions.

“HCCI will provide, for the first time, researchers access to data that covers all ages and health issues and is national in scope,” Gaynor said in a CMU press release. “Perhaps most importantly, for the first time there will be comprehensive data on the privately insured who make up the majority of health consumers in the United States.”