This fall, I was in Venice and visited
an exhibit of machines reproduced from Leonardo da Vinci’s
codices. The exhibit provided an opportunity to “play”
with a number of his inventions related to improving building and
bridge construction and to observe depictions of human nature and
concepts envisioned in future flying machines. The overwhelming
impression from the visit was that as Leonardo da Vinci observed
ordinary life, he saw everywhere ways he could improve the understanding
of human nature and how tasks were performed. His extraordinary
ability to identify human needs and to propose solutions are a precursor
to what many believe to be a critical element of engineering today—“innovation.”
We can ask the question that is relevant to ASEE today: “Are educational programs in engineering and engineering technology developing a cadre of creative graduates who, like da Vinci, can see in the world that surrounds them almost endless opportunities to improve human activity and well-being?”
Two recent National Academy reports have raised concerns about the need to accelerate the role of innovation and creativity in the education of our graduates. In “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future” (National Research Council/COSEPUP, Washington, D.C., 2005), the nation’s future economic development is cited as strongly dependent on our capacity to be innovative and entrepreneurial. The report “Engineering Research and America’s Future” (Committee to Assess the Capacity of the U.S. Engineering Research Enterprise, NAE, Washington, D.C., 2005) has focused on the future of engineering research to further the nation’s competitiveness in the global marketplace. It proposes the creation of innovation centers focused on translational research in areas of critical national interest including energy, security, health and economic development. These centers would support teams of academic, industrial and government professionals to develop new products and processes—and graduates who will be innovators. Many of the recommendations in this report are reflected in the recent call for proposals by the National Science Foundation to establish five new engineering research centers focusing on innovation and on coupling universities in the United States and abroad with small and large companies. In summary, both of these reports indicate that educating engineers whose creative and innovative talents are nurtured and strengthened should be viewed as a national priority.
How is ASEE responding to the need to accelerate and enhance education
related to innovation and entrepreneurship? One of ASEE’s
responses to this challenge is the formation of the relatively new
and rapidly growing Entrepreneurship
Division. As a part of its activities, the division organizes
forums for educators from across the world to share their research
in implementing entrepreneurial and innovative educational themes
in engineering and engineering technology programs. The division
is sponsored, in part, by the Kauffman Foundation and the National
Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, as well as several
universities. Members of the division represent a wide spectrum
of university faculty who have embarked on educational programs
with an emphasis on innovation and creativity. These academic programs
reflect new efforts to embed innovation education into core curricula,
to develop entrepreneurship minors, to develop business plan competitions
that bring together students and faculty from engineering and business
schools and, more recently, to develop graduate certificate programs
In addition to the focus on curriculum and education in the Entrepreneurship Division, ASEE has developed and introduced a number of innovative approaches to challenges in engineering education. Several of these are highlighted below.Thus, ASEE through its efforts to share new developments, research and best practices on how to educate students to be more innovative and aware of the opportunities to improve the human condition, is very much working to further engineering’s needed focus on “Innovation.”
David N. Wormley is the president of ASEE and the dean of the College of Engineering at Penn State University.
Is ASEE an innovative nonprofit or does it operate the way many nonprofits do—by simply servicing its existing members, publishing a magazine and holding an annual conference? I am pleased to report that ASEE goes well beyond the norm. One of the reasons our organization is so successful is its ability to create new products that help engineering educators address the serious issues facing the profession.
Let’s look at one of the discipline’s most pressing
issues: how to get more children into the engineering pipeline.
In 2003, ASEE created “Engineering,
Go for It,” an award-winning magazine aimed at getting
high school kids excited about engineering. With a strong emphasis
on diversity, the magazine aims to make engineering exciting and
fun through lively writing and bright and exciting pictures and
graphics. ASEE came up with a unique business model that enabled
it to distribute the magazine across the country through its membership
of engineering deans. The result: “Engineering, Go for It”
is getting ready for its third printing, and by the end of this
year, there will be more than 1 million copies in print.
ASEE also embarked on a well-crafted and innovative approach to
developing worldwide network connections through its global
online membership program and international
colloquium. Five years ago, ASEE had 262 global online members;
today, thanks to the success of several recent international meetings
and the creation of the International
Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES),
ASEE has become a truly global organization with 674 global online
members from 69 countries.
Companies that know how to use the power of technology and develop
innovative solutions often surpass their competitors in the global
marketplace. While ASEE is not a company, we do face competition
in the projects area from a variety of organizations that also want
the government’s business. Our ability to use technology by
automating highly labor-intensive activities has enabled ASEE to
win a number of prestigious contracts, such as the NSF,
NDSEG and SMART fellowship awards. –DW
This year’s global colloquium was host to extraordinary happenings. Imagine a panel of representatives from half a dozen Latin American engineering education organizations, engaging in an animated discussion with their South Korean counterpart, at an American conference, in a French hotel, on the stunningly beautiful beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Down the hall, similar conversations were taking place between 450 government, industry and academic representatives from more than 30 countries across the globe. Though the intricacies of each discussion varied, they all rested upon the same overarching theme: global thinking and the impact that engineering, science and technology have on today’s global challenges.
Each year, ASEE hosts a global
colloquium to provide a space for international engineering
education discussion between representatives from universities,
societies, corporations, governments and civil society organizations
from around the world. The community developed from the global colloquium’s
five-year history consists of a group of inventive thinkers and
practitioners dedicated to the future of engineering education in
a changing world.
This year’s colloquium, held Oct.
9-12 in Rio de Janeiro, had a tone of excitement and innovation.
Though the beach was right outside, the vibrancy of the place came
from inside the colloquium. International linkages—like the
connection between South Korea and Latin America—solidified
in every room, and there seemed a consensus that international interconnectivity,
diverse geographic representation and global thinking were the keys
to sustained progress in worldwide engineering education.
The colloquium in Rio was distinguished by a concerted effort to utilize innovative approaches to shared international challenges. The traditional track-only lecture format, typically dominating engineering education meetings, was augmented by the more interactive “roundtable” approach. Additionally, several cutting-edge corporate workshops drew eager crowds.
Within the colloquium, the International
Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES),
a partnership of 34 engineering education organizations, corporations,
nongovernmental organizations and deans’ councils, held its
inaugural meeting and election of officers. “IFEES will work
to boost innovation in science and technology so as to improve the
state of economic development worldwide,” says Claudio Borri,
an Italian colloquium participant and the newly elected president
An international student forum, the first in ASEE history, brought together 50 students from around the world to identify global win-win partnerships in which the next generation can engage. With help from the latest in communication technology, these students have sustained this forward-thinking dialogue, hoping to expand what began in Rio into a global movement.
ASEE has developed a creative space for international discussion in engineering education issues. Governmental and intergovernmental organizations such as the World Bank Institute, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization of American States and the National Science Foundation all played a role in the meeting, emphasizing the importance of the economic and social benefits of the enhancement of worldwide engineering education partnership. The organizations and universities present at the colloquium, too numerous to name, shared best practices with one another and identified ways to learn from their international colleagues.
To site an example that emerged from the conference: Seven organizations from throughout the Americas and Europe (including ASEE and the newly formed IFEES), came together and signed a document entitled “Engineering Collaboration Agreement for the Americas” that “establishes the foundation for continued collaboration and mutual cooperation, and affirms interest in enhancing engineering education in the Americas.” We at ASEE have great hope this partnership will cultivate measurable results.
In an effort to encourage new and challenging perspectives, ASEE hosts each global colloquium in a different location, always making an attempt to maintain a continuity and interconnectedness between the years. The next global colloquium, in October 2007, will be in Istanbul, Turkey; 2008 will be Cape Town, South Africa.
—Spencer B. Potter, ASEE International Programs Associate
The fifth in a series of
global colloquia on engineering education organized by ASEE was
held in Rio de Janeiro Oct. 8-12. The theme of the meeting was
“Engineering Education in the Americas and Beyond.”
Three tracks provided the structure of the meeting: development
of the curriculum for the global engineer, Engineering for the Americas
and primary and secondary education. Summaries of each are provided
 Development of the Curriculum for the Global Engineer
Teri Reed-Rhoads, Purdue
The “Development of the Curriculum for the Global Engineer” track began with a lesson in “Globish,” a simplified version of the English language proposed by Jean Paul Nerrière, a French businessman, in 2004. We learned through example that, although it is the language of choice for much of the world, Globish is typically not well spoken by native English speakers and consequently creates problems when one of the latter tries to communicate with one or more of the former. Nevertheless, this is an example of a simplified language that may be one of the unifying elements of the global engineer. Globalization blurs traditional boundaries of business and technology; nationality, location and ownership are just a few of the issues that add to that blurring. Many implications for engineers and engineering educators were raised in the global engineering discussion. Some of these included: language, global skills, competitiveness within the discipline with global standards, global teaming, collaboration, mobility, flexibility, intercultural sensitivity, cross-cultural communication and last, but certainly not least, learning languages. Based on these needs, the discussions focused on what universities can do to better ensure that their graduates possess these qualifications.
The overall themes of the track included the developing relationships between North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, working collaboratively across cultures, international service learning projects, outreach to international students and innovative approaches to international engineering education. The key words presented during the three days of 15 presentations and 90 posters can be synthesized as follows:
- Globish A need for a common language or appreciation for the necessary level of communication that is needed in the global environment.
- Bilingual-Bicultural The need is more than language; cultural awareness is important. Students need to be bicultural as well as bilingual. There was general agreement that students need to study internationally to acquire these two important abilities.
- Partnerships Pushes from industry and professional organizations will move the international agenda quicker. This includes accreditation bodies such as the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET).
- Connectedness There is an international need for us to work together toward producing globally competent engineers, especially for the world’s future.
- Collaboration to Leadership The Collaborative Advantage – Leadership will go to those who can best collaborate. Academia must teach these skills rather than just technical knowledge and skills.
- Humanitarian Engineering The common thread through many of the models utilized in global education is humanitarian engineering. Gone are the days of making half a widget in one country and the other half in another country and then seeing if they fit. Now we seem to be solving real problems in real situations.
Though relatively few students are going abroad from any one country (and especially from the United States), all indications are that this must quickly change. From Thomas Friedman’s “The World Is Flat” to a growing recognition of the value of diversity that globalization and global teams bring, the future need to understand and provide global experiences seems undisputed. There are many challenges to global experiences, beginning with convincing students and/or their parents that this type of experiential learning is not only necessary but required in some instances. The experience is not inexpensive, and convincing people that these are funds well spent is part of the challenge. In addition, the perceptions of the programs themselves and the rigor involved run the gamut from extremely hard and time consuming to a vacation-type experience. Other challenges include faculty training and experience. Some of the most successful programs have strong faculty champions who either travel each time with the students or have traveled extensively and know all parties intimately. The staff and faculty support for securing access, entrance, paperwork and travel details is yet another important aspect that can be challenging. Gaining entrance is not always easy. The relationship development takes time and effort. When planning to send students abroad for any period of time, there is the question of student preparation. How long should the preparation be prior to going to a new country? What are the important topics? How familiar should the students be with the language and culture? These are just a few of the questions with which engineering educators are now struggling. The idea of coordinating dispersed teams is a pedagogically appealing process. However, how the teams and the associated change are managed is not always straightforward. The synchronization of distributed design projects can be daunting. Finally, what happens after the experience when the students/faculty/staff return? How can we incorporate their experiences with learning at the home institution? The exit plan is often the key to completing the learning.
Finally, one size does not fit all, and there are some great models to consider when designing a global experience. These run from a year abroad to a matter of days on a spring break trip. There are many models in the middle of these two extremes, such as the multimonth or week program, which typically exists during the summer. Sometimes these are combined with international internships in addition to the travel. There are January programs, May-mester programs and spring break programs. There are learning communities focused on a particular country or type of experience that only speak “the language” when in the living/learning spaces. Of course, there are the virtual programs that require no actual travel abroad.
There were some very good ideas about how to market these experiences. One of the best was that students beget students. Experienced students are the best marketers of a successful program. The experience should not add time to a student’s degree requirements. Getting involved in real problems that matter makes a significant difference in the perception of the experience. There are examples of successful programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. However, one common theme emerged: Curricular innovations and flexibility are required by all involved parties, countries, institutions, faculty, staff and students. Finally, funding is typically obtained by unique partnerships and the merging of interests. The recommendation was to “get out of the box” when discussing or thinking about funding these types of programs. One common note was that the gender and ethnicity participations need to be studied at a more detailed level. This led one of the final discussions of how these global curricular experiences can be viewed from a research perspective in the newly proposed engineering education research framework.
Though developed through efforts in the United States (and published in the October 2006 Journal of Engineering Education), it was found that the five basic tenets of the framework were borderless.
These five tenets include the following: 1) Engineering Epistemologies: research on what constitutes engineering now and into the future; 2) Engineering Learning Mechanisms: research on developing Engineering Learners’ Knowledge and Expertise; 3) Engineering Diversity and Inclusiveness: research on how diverse human talents contribute to the social and global relevance of our profession; 4) Engineering Learning Systems: research on the instructional culture and epistemology of engineering educators; and 5) Engineering Assessment: research on, and development of, assessment methods, instruments and metrics to enhance engineering education.
In summary, the development of the curriculum for the global engineer track provided a number of models of successful programs. The increasing recognition of the need for a globally competent engineer is obvious. However, there are still challenges associated with the idea including costs, participants and time. The benefits, on the other hand, were seen to far outweigh the challenges. The ideas of study abroad are being extended to global teamwork and international projects. Finally, brush up on your Globish and answer the question of whether curriculum for the global engineer is a requirement for our students today with a resounding and very simple “Yes.”
 Engineering for the Americas
Russel C. Jones, World Expertise LLC, Rapporteur
This track at the global colloquium provided background on the Engineering for the Americas movement, status reports on current activities and discussion of engineering and engineering education in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Latin America is falling behind in the global economy, compared with other parts of the world. As reported recently in the Wall Street Journal, developing Asia has increased its percentage of gross domestic profit as a percentage of the world total from 10 percent to 25 percent in the past 25 years, while Latin America’s percentage has dropped from 10 percent to 7 percent.
Engineering is key to meeting the social and economic goals of the Latin America and Caribbean region. The hemisphere of the Americas has homogeneous origins, but social and economic development have progressed unequally between north and south. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean must increase investments in research and development and put a high priority on a highly trained workforce—particularly engineers and scientists.
Engineering for the Americas is an effort to stimulate Latin America and the Caribbean to catch up, through enhanced engineering education, quality assurance and the mobility of engineers and technical work. Engineering for the Americas involves collaboration among four sectors: academia, industry, government and professional engineering organizations.
The major milestones in the Engineering for the Americas effort include:
- A resolution adopted by the assembled Ministers of Science and Technology of the Organization of American States countries in Lima, Peru, in November 2004. This resolution recognized engineering development as a major contributor to economic development and stated that enhancement of engineering in each country in the region would be a high priority. The resolution also called for a major symposium to focus on the needs in this area and plan a path forward.
- A major symposium on capacity building in Latin America and the Caribbean was held in Lima, Peru, in December 2005, in response to the ministers’ instruction. The three-day symposium, gathering some 250 key representatives from the four sectors noted above, focused on three major elements: needs of the productive sector; enhancement of engineering education, including quality assurance; and country planning and financing of plans.
- The work of the Engineering for the Americas group is ongoing, with presentations at international conferences, workshops in Latin America and the Caribbean, networking, fundraising, etc. It is being led by a provisional executive committee consisting of representatives from the four sectors noted above.
Major issues being addressed in the Engineering for the Americas process include enhancement of engineering education; accreditation of engineering programs within a country or region; mutual recognition of education credentials and practice licenses across borders; and partnerships between the four sectors to effect the desired goals.
The desired attributes of an Engineer for the Americas are seen as: technical competence, as certified by a recognized accreditation system; ability to understand and respect diversity of cultures, including differences in approaches to problem solving; skill to communicate effectively anywhere; and international experience.
Accreditation issues are important in progressing toward the Engineering for the Americas goals. Cultural reservations first have to be overcome. Universities in Latin America have been autonomous and do not easily submit to evaluation by any outside entity. And countries are reluctant to be compared with other countries, either within or outside of the region. When development of an effective accreditation system for engineering education is discussed in Latin America and the Caribbean, there is typically a division of opinion on what model to adopt—that of North America (ABET, CEAB, CACEI) or the system used in Spain and Portugal.
Several engineering schools in Latin America and the Caribbean have had “substantial equivalency” evaluations by accreditation bodies from outside the region. Several Latin American countries are currently developing accreditation systems, for application either at the overall university level or for engineering programs specifically. And regional accreditation systems are being developed in some areas, such as the Caribbean and Central America.
Cross-border recognition of engineering education programs is also a goal of the Engineering for the Americas effort. The “gold standard” for international recognition of accredited engineering programs is the Washington Accord. Established in 1989, the Washington Accord currently has 10 full member countries, five provisional members and many more interested in qualifying for membership. It is hoped that accreditation systems developed in Latin America and the Caribbean will eventually qualify for such membership. The goal of the Washington Accord is to build bridges toward the mutual recognition of the substantial equivalence of engineering education programs. Outcomes-based assessment is the method that allows comparisons between accreditation systems.
In order to promote a knowledge-based economy in Latin America and the Caribbean, partnerships must be promoted between universities and industry—to have innovative R&D carried out, then converted into products and services for economic development. Universities need to move from only undergraduate education to include graduate education and research in their missions. Investment in human capital—via education—is key to development of a knowledge economy. Governments throughout the hemisphere of the Americas must be convinced to invest in engineering education as a top priority. Pressure through legislatures, the media, etc. is needed to effect such prioritization.
The anticipated results from the Engineering for the Americas movement include:
- Direct foreign investment, through new or expanded operations in Latin American countries, and work flow through outsourcing
- Development of small and medium enterprises via entrepreneurship
- Expanded international trade
- Sustainable economic development
- And all of the above leading to jobs and poverty reduction
Gerhard Salinger, National Science Foundation, Rapporteur
The Primary/Secondary track of the fifth Global Colloquium on Engineering Education was organized around five topics on engineering education: research, primary education, secondary education, professional development and informal education. The topics reinforced each other. Five major issues surfaced:
1. In the plenary talk for the Primary/Secondary Strand, the point was made that educational reform is not for sprinters but requires the characteristics of the long-distance runner—persistence and patience.
2. There is little research on how students learn engineering content and processes.
3. Students learn many skills, particularly in the use of informational technologies and design, outside of school. How does formal education recognize this learning and build on it?
4. It is important for teachers to modify their expectations and instruction to build on these skills and knowledge. However, most teachers in the primary/secondary system have little understanding about technological literacy and design and are terrified by them. Teacher professional development must include engineering education.
5. There is a tension between standards-based education and providing understandings and competencies desired in the workplace.
The National Center for Engineering and Technology Education in
the United States (www.ncete.org),
a consortium of four doctoral degree-granting institutions and five
colleges that prepare technology and engineering educators for the
primary/secondary system, considers research in learning engineering
concepts and processes in the context of developing teachers. The
center studies engineering design and analytic thinking at the secondary
level, develops pathways to engineering and technology education,
increases the quantity and quality of secondary teachers of engineering
and technology and builds capacity and graduate education. There
are 12 doctoral fellows who do research on learning, teaching and
assessment. In their first year they learn about cognitive science
and work on a high-level research project that includes writing
a proposal for some funding. One student project focused on the
ability to use the design process and found that naïve designers
do not explore as large a design space as informed designers. Thus
a progression in how primary/secondary students learn engineering
design can be developed. These results were corroborated in a second
In Brazil (and elsewhere), all students in the primary/secondary schools must have a basic knowledge of science and technology and be able to use instructional technology to be part of the productive process. Students in Brazil are expected to learn science and mathematics sufficiently to understand the technological world and understand that social context defines technology. In the United States, the standards in science and mathematics do not have a similar goal. Instructional technologies can provide students an engaging learning environment in which they can also learn to work collaboratively. The technology can be used to provide teachers the information they need to individualize instruction as well. When the use of instructional technology helps students interact socially in solving problems, increased learning takes place.
A variety of instructional materials have been developed and tested
to help primary and secondary school students learn about engineering
and what engineers do (www.mos.org/doc/1545).
These materials also address science, mathematics and reading standards.
A set of readers for primary school students provides examples of
what engineers do and engages students in design tasks. Assessments
demonstrate that students improve their understandings of what engineers
do and also their reading ability—an important issue in the
United States. Other materials engage primary school students in
the design and construction of automotive objects while also addressing
supporting the learning of science and mathematics concepts (www.sae.org/foundation/awim).
These materials support professional engineers and technologists
in working with teachers and students in classrooms. Still other
materials developed in the United States and in Israel help students
understand the context in which technology is developed from concept
to product, media and message, managing and marketing. The technological
business community is interested in high school instruction that
provides students with an understanding of the world of work while
preparing them with the competencies necessary to be successful
in tertiary education (www.fordpas.org).
Most teachers in the primary/secondary system have little understanding
about technological literacy and design. They are terrified to provide
instruction in them. Determining how to provide professional development
for teachers is paramount. Issues of professional development of
teachers are qualitatively similar in Brazil and the United States.
Successful professional development programs must be relevant to
classes being taught and the resources available and have in-class
follow-up. Colleges can work together to produce teachers with both
excellent disciplinary and pedagogical knowledge. Programs, particularly
in the United States demonstrate that, with some training, graduate
students in disciplinary programs and also practicing engineers
and technicians can help teachers and public school students learn
about science and engineering and how it is practiced with benefits
that accrue both to themselves and to their institutions, as well
Learning in informal settings can engage students in elements
of engineering (www2.edc.org/ITESTLRC/).
Service learning projects, particularly those involving sustainability,
can engage students at all levels in solving complex technological
Informal education projects can provide opportunities for students
to learn technological skills and explore what engineers and technologists
do. Student experiences outside the classroom must be built on in-classroom
The competencies required in the high-performance technical workplace
must be addressed by the primary/secondary education system. This
can be accomplished through stronger emphasis on engineering and
technology education in the primary and secondary schools.