By Don P. Giddens
You’ve probably noticed that education is frequently in the headlines these days, sometimes in a positive context and at other times with criticism. On the positive side, there is a broad and growing realization that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, from kindergarten through postgraduate study, is important to the nation and offers potential for helping us get back on track economically through innovation and job creation. There has been growth, albeit modest, in the number of students studying engineering, and in some areas of diversity the needle is moving just a bit in the right direction. Although much work remains, the quality of students and faculty in engineering and engineering technology has continued to improve, at least by commonly used metrics. There is clear evidence of the positive impact of technology on everyday life, and many subscribe to the idea that technology is needed to solve many pressing problems of society, including such grand challenges as health, security, safe water, and food.
On the other hand, education in the United States is under fire from several quarters. Academic performance of our K-12 students, on average, remains behind that of many other nations, and the percentage of college-eligible students who consider studying STEM fields remains well below that of countries with which we wish to compete. The cost of higher education to students has escalated much faster than other costs, partly because of decreasing state support (in the case of public universities) but also because of significant growth in areas that are not directly academic, such as improved student services and facilities, expansion of university bureaucracy (some of it needed in response to increased oversight and regulation, some highly questionable), and the frequent lack of processes that focus on the old concept of continuous quality improvement. The public is demanding a response, whether from schools or politicians.
Technological innovations are touted as one answer for doing more with less in education, and clearly information technology has enabled significant increases in effectiveness across many aspects of education. Unfortunately, governors, state legislators, and boards of trustees often think that technology is the answer to being able to increase class sizes (hence increasing tuition revenues through higher volume, while decreasing state support), reduce the need for faculty and classrooms, and cut costs. Worse, teachers and professors are often accused of being part of the problem – even by some in our own community.
As usual, we have significant challenges and yet notable opportunities.
I believe there are a few axioms related to engineering education in such a rapidly changing world. One is that “education and training are not synonymous.” While it is true that the pace of change is astounding and we often say that most of what we teach in an engineering education will be obsolete within several years, as educators we must distinguish – and press others to distinguish – between education and training. Yes, some training takes many years, such as training for cardiac surgery, but many technological changes that occur are incremental, very specific, and short-lived. A well-educated person is able to cope with these changes and even create them. Education, on the other hand, is a much broader concept that relates to both breadth and depth in longer lasting principles – which leads to a second axiom: “Fundamentals are fundamental.” These are the things that are basic truths and foundations upon which a student can build a lifetime of learning. While we, as educators, have a training role to an extent, we also have a much more important educational role.
So where are ASEE and our members in all this? Let me cite just two examples.
ASEE is heavily engaged in informing those who make public policy related to engineering and engineering technology education. Our publications are resources for contributing to informed discussions of diversity, the importance of university R&D to economic health, and innovations in education. ASEE has assisted in arranging for deans to visit members of Congress and their staffs to discuss important and timely issues. We have been asked for, and provided, input on the K-12 education component of the America COMPETES Act. Input from ASEE representatives has been included in the Congressional Record. We also maintain a significant database related to engineering degrees, research funding, student enrollments, faculty salaries, and other metrics that provide nonpartisan information for informed debate.
ASEE is also at the forefront in emphasizing both the scholarship of teaching and learning and its practice, as evidenced by the Journal of Engineering Education, Advances in Engineering Education, articles in Prism, and sessions at the Annual Meeting as well as various Section meetings. We provide a spectrum of articles, presentations, and workshops that enable faculty to be more effective. The Leah Jamieson and Jack Lohmann-led study, “Innovation with Impact,” which will be externally reviewed, finalized, and released over the next several months, represents a significant body of data and recommendations that all educators will find useful, especially policymakers, department heads, deans, and provosts.
In this election year, many factors are converging to cause STEM education to be in the national limelight. I’m pleased to say that ASEE is on the front lines of involvement in helping to inform, shape discussion, and propose improvements that go well beyond being incremental. It’s a great time to be in engineering and engineering technology education and a great time to be a part of ASEE.
Don P. Giddens is president of ASEE.
By Christina White
The ASEE Global Symposium on Engineering Education and the Global Economy last October brought 75 leading figures from academia, industry, and government from around the world to Shanghai. After exploring the role of engineering schools as innovation engines for the global economy, participants produced a series of recommendations on ways to improve international education, treatment of intellectual property, and industry-university collaboration.
The symposium was different in both structure and composition from past ASEE international conferences. Besides hearing from invited speakers and interactive panels, participants formed three working groups, which focused, respectively, on research parks and translation of research to the marketplace, global education experiences, and policy and government. All participants were encouraged at the outset by Cochair Tom Katsouleas, dean of engineering at Duke University, to listen for harmony and commonalities.
Key questions examined by the various speakers and working groups included: How can university ideas be translated into innovations that improve society and drive the global economy? What skill sets are needed to drive the global economy of the 21st century, and how are these best learned? What is the role of government in bridging the valley of death between university research and start-ups and businesses?
Darryll Pines, dean of engineering at the University of Maryland, explained the contrasting influences and events that have shaped the attitudes of three generations of engineering students: baby boomers, generation X, and generation Y. Technically sophisticated, the current generation of students expects to join a diverse workforce and seeks to have a positive impact on society, he noted.
Scholars from China and the United States led discussions about best practices and challenges in global cocurricular experiences. A common theme was the need for engineering to provide hands-on experiences. Whether in a study abroad program, an international solar decathlon, or designing in a developing country, engineering students thrive in international experiential learning, speakers agreed. Through those experiences, they develop a 21st-century skill set and mind-set, including critical thinking, collaboration, and communication, essential to innovatively solving grand challenges.
Robert Parker, executive dean of the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute, moderated a panel discussion about the workforce needs of multinational corporations. Collaboration and communication skills are key attributes for engineers to be successful in geographically distributed teams, speakers noted.
Looking at barriers to success in international partnerships, Dan Mote, professor and former president at the University of Maryland, College Park, said that with an appreciation of different cultural influences, trust can be developed to build sustainable, interpersonal relationships. Those relationships, in turn, can lead to global partnerships that diversify the university student body and better prepare students to communicate, design, and lead in an international workforce.
Each working group was moderated by an international team. Moderators included Louis Martin-Vega, engineering dean at North Carolina State University, Shou-Wen Yu, former vice president of Tsinghua University, Quyuan Ye, professor and former deputy president of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Gregory Washington, engineering dean at the University of California, Irvine. Each group generated recommendations that represent calls to action for universities, government policymakers, foundations, and multinational corporations.
Universities were urged to give intellectual property to faculty and students, or at least to think more creatively about how both could benefit; increase the scope of engineering-driven, university-wide entrepreneurship activities; establish more meaningful ways for students to collaborate internationally; and give faculty members greater incentives to foster and engage in global partnerships.
Industry and government were encouraged to enhance the research park concept to create a true “educational, translational, and human resource development experience”, promote more market- and use-motivated research, and form collaborations among industry, academic institutions, foundations, and philanthropic organizations and governments. Recommendations for governments included forming round tables of industry, academia, and policymakers; open collaboration among governments regarding intellectual property; and increase funding mechanisms and policy support for partnerships.
The National Academy of Engineering has awarded the $500,000 Bernard M. Gordon Prize, which recognizes innovation in engineering and technology education, to three Harvey Mudd College professors, all members of ASEE.
The winners are Clive L. Dym, professor of engineering design and director of the Center for Design Education, who is an ASEE fellow; M. Mack Gilkeson, professor of engineering emeritus and cofounder of the hands-on Clinic program; and J. Richard Phillips, professor of engineering emeritus and Clinic director for 17 years. Phillips is also a past chair of the Pacific Southwest Section. Half the award will go to the institution.
They were cited for “creating and disseminating innovations in undergraduate engineering design education to develop engineering leaders.” Harvey Mudd’s website quotes Ziyad Duron, Department of Engineering chair, as saying the three “have contributed to an engineering program that has design, problem-solving, and professional practice woven throughout a student’s experience at HMC.”
ASEE members who have previously won the Gordon Prize, listed alphabetically, are Frank S. Barnes, professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of Colorado, Boulder; Thomas Byers, professor in the management science and engineering department at Stanford University; Edward Coyle, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University; Edward Crawley; professor of aaeronautics and astronautics and of engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Eli Fromm, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Drexel University; Leah Jamieson, dean of engineering at Purdue University; John Lamancusa, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Learning Factory at Penn State University; Lueny Morell, a member of the Strategy Team at HP Laboratories; William C. Oakes, associate professor of engineering education at Purdue University; Jacquelyn Sullivan, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder; and Jose Zayas-Castro, professor and chair of the Department of Industrial Management Systems Engineering at the University of South Florida.
The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) is pleased to hold its ninth annual K-12 Workshop on Engineering Education, “Employing Engineering for STEM Learning,” presented by Dassault Systèmes, on June 9, 2012, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas.
This daylong program for K-12 teachers, administrators, and engineering educators from Texas and across the country will provide an energizing, interactive overview of successful engineering education instruction for the K-12 classroom. Attendees will discover innovative best practices, new contacts for collaboration and outreach, and the latest take-away tools for engineering education. Take advantage of this unique event, and help get students excited about engineering.
For further details including registration, go to: http://asee.org/K-12workshop/2012.
For additional information, contact Libby Martin, K-12 Meeting Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.