The Society of Automotive Engineers will do something this month that it has never done before. The professional engineering organization will award its top position to a female engineer. SAE has elected its first woman president - Rodica A. Baranescu, chief engineer, at International Truck & Engine Corp. (formerly Navistar).

Mrs. Baranescu will be formally bestowed with the presidential honor at the conclusion of SAE's 2000 World Congress this month.

Mrs. Baranescu joined SAE in 1980, the same year she began working at Navistar. She has been active in SAE, serving a two-year term as a member of the SAE Board of Directors in 1995-'97. Earlier this year, she was elected as an SAE fellow, an honor that recognizes important engineering achievements of members and enhances the status of the nearly 80,000-member SAE's contributions to the profession and the general public.

She was a member of SAE's International Coordinating Committee and currently is serving as a member of the Selections Board, using her international experience to help the globalization efforts of SAE International. During 1997, she actively supported the formation of two Romanian Joint Groups, a cooperative activity between SAE and the Romanian automotive society (SIAR).

Born in Romania, she holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Bucharest, Romania. She also taught at the university for 13 years before coming to the United States.

At Navistar, Mrs. Baranescu has worked as an engineer and manager to advance the social acceptability of diesel engines. Her technical efforts have advanced and encouraged the understanding of engine design, combustion, thermodynamics and alternative fuels. To further prove her commitment to alternative fuel sources for vehicles, Mrs. Baranescu has served as chairwoman of the Alternative Fuels Committee for the Engine Manufacturers Assn. since 1983.

Active in the SAE Chicago Section, Mrs. Baranescu served as chairwoman in 1994. Under her leadership, the section earned the Gold Award of Excellence. Mrs. Baranescu and her husband, George, live in a suburb of Chicago.

In addition to naming a new president, SAE's 2000 World Congress will be packed with other activities. A special panel will examine different career paths for automotive service technicians as part of the Service Technicians Society's, "Conference within a Conference."

The panel is just one of several scheduled activities to inform service technicians how they can take advantage ofnew technology in the auto industry. Steve D. Burgett, of the Melior Institute, will discuss web-based training. Mr. Burgett will introduce pilot research and the progress of delivering technical automotive training via the Internet.

Delphi Automotive Systems will give Congress attendees the opportunity to learn how a vehicle can dial 911. Think it isn't possible? Then attend Delphi's presentation on Integrated Safety Systems (ISS). Delphi engineers will go beyond the surface and discuss ISS safety features in depth. The capabilities of ISS include calling 911 after a vehicle has been in an accident, detecting and extinguishing fires, releasing seatbelts, unlocking vehicle doors, fuel-pump shut-off and vehicle illumination during night-time accidents.

Automakers say they will have fuel cell vehicles ready for production by 2004, but the question is what type of fuel will start the engines? During the Congress, scientists will debate the merits and shortcomings of various alternative fuels. Exxon researchers Paul J. Berlowitz and Charles P. Darnell will compare hydrogen, methanol reformers and hydrocarbon (gasoline) as fuel sources. Government concern with air quality and fuel economy has prompted global automakers to move up the timetable for bringing alternative fuel source vehicles to production.

Those vying for information on the international automotive market won't be disappointed by the offerings at this year's World Congress. Three international panels will scrutinize the automotive business in Hungary, Sweden and South America's Mercosur, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay and is the third largest trade organization after NAFTA and the European Union.

Eight participants from the Central European nation will speak about, "How to do business in Hungary." General Motors, Corp., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have each established large manufacturing assembly plants in Hungary. Swedish and U.S. automotive executives will make up the third panel discussing the Swedish car market.

For the first time ever, SAE 2000 World Congress attendees can head out to the Pontiac Silverdome to get behind-the-wheel experience driving vehicles equipped with the latest safety technologies. Drivers will experience driving technologies such as traction control, stability control, braking and tire technologies on four specialty tracks. The sessions will be conducted by professional driving instructors and will cost $95.