PRISM Magazine - January 2003
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Engineers for all Seasons
Shrinking Assets
On Politics
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ASEE Today


ASEE Goes to Berlin

In early October, ASEE held its first overseas international colloquium with help from its co-sponsors, the European Society for Engineering Education and the Technical University of Berlin. The event brought 270 participants from 45 countries to Berlin to discuss the colloquium's theme: Global Changes in Engineering Education. Uniting the diverse elements of international engineering education, the program focused on the role of new technologies, standards of accreditation, and entrepreneurship.

Technology and Distance Learning
- By Russel C. Jones

Current technology has revolutionized distance education. It provides access to learning that is independent of time, distance, and economic status, and it allows flexibility in offering nondegree and degree work in a variety of patterns. Furthermore, employers generally support engineers who want to undertake continuing education, indicating that they want employees who learn throughout their lives. Distance education in engineering attracts many students who otherwise would not be motivated or able to continue formal study. The educational results of distance ed. are as good as face-to-face instruction.

The distance delivery mechanism is moving from broadcast or taped video technology to online delivery. The Nintendo generation demands technology utilization in learning.

E-learning increases the effectiveness of the learning process, facilitates access, and opens learning to wider audiences. E-materials promote reuse of educational material, and faculty members can offer multiple courses from one content repository. Remote access to labs is now possible—students can measure anything, anywhere, and use connected technology to analyze and present results. E-learning is also becoming useful and common in other areas of the curriculum like mathematics. And e-technology applications in education allow better tailoring of courses to each student–taking into consideration the student's experience, current needs, and learning style.

Campuses are incorporating e-technologies into course management, often utilizing commercial software systems recently introduced to the market. Many campuses are building full-service campus portals for comprehensive access to all services and information by students.

There are, however, several unresolved issues with respect to teaching online. Faculty workload management is complicated by the unique demands of distance education–such as e-mailed questions on a 24/7 basis. Rewards for faculty members and academic departments within the university system are not well defined and often do not fit within existing patterns. The blending of face-to-face and online education is seen as desirable but in what proportions and formats? The true costs of distance education are hard to determine, and it is not clear that it will ever be profitable for universities. Faculty members remain concerned about the security of exams and other student work, and dropout rates for students enrolled at a distance are typically higher than those in face-to-face classes. Can distance education techniques be effectively used to give engineering students some international exposure–for example, through senior design projects done across international borders by student teams primarily using e-technologies for interaction?

Many issues discussed at the conference were not resolved. How can engineering educators tap the expertise of pedagogy and cognitive experts and utilize their techniques effectively? Can e-technologies lead to an open-courseware approach between faculty members at different universities, enhancing the field of engineering education more rapidly? How can quality assurance, and perhaps accreditation, be provided for in distance education? Systematic assessment is needed to determine the effectiveness of the use of e-technologies in engineering education and to guide continuous improvement in such applications.

It has been shown that distance education is as effective as face-to-face education–but can it surpass real-time, in-person learning? Some campuses are providing extensive wireless access to faculty members and students–is that necessary and cost effective? How can campuses provide wide access to costly commercial software packages? Finally, one industry representative observed that investments in utilizing e-technologies in education have been much too small to date–and that much larger funding will be needed to achieve real effectiveness and economies of scale.


National and Global Aspects of Engineering Accreditation
- By Jack C. Levy

Accreditation is in the public interest. It promotes the sharing of good practice, and is of increasing importance for national and international recognition of courses and their graduates.

The presentations on national systems of engineering accreditation covered six countries. Some had existing well-developed systems, like France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In other countries, such as the Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands, the systems are still being established. While the discussions showed that individual countries approach launching and developing accreditation systems differently, all of the countries faced the same core questions: Who accredits? Who finances? Who controls? And who awards the professional title?

Government, professional organizations, a special independent body, or universities could all be potentially responsible for the accreditation process. And the speakers showed that in practice there are many permutations in use. For example, both the British and the American systems are based upon accreditation, finance, and control by professional organizations. But in the U.K., these organizations confer the Chartered Engineer title, while in the U.S., each state separately awards the Professional Engineer title. The long-standing French system and the new German approach are based more upon government established bodies. Also, in some countries, including France and Germany, engineering accreditation is part of a larger national system covering all higher education.

There was considerable discussion of outcomes assessment based mainly on ABET's EC-2000 document. The consensus was that while the output approach had much to commend it, the jury is still out on its ultimate effect and that ABET may later have to revisit EC-2000. ABET's program of motivating faculty change and training team chairs and evaluators was commended and seen as key in changing attitudes.

In terms of global-international accreditation, three types of agreements were discussed. One seeks to transfer titles from one country to another. For example, a U.K. Chartered Engineer could move to the U.S. and use the title Professional Engineer and vice versa. No such examples are known, but some bilateral agreements are similar to this type of agreement. One such agreement exists between France and Canada.

A second option is to use a comprehensive new common title. Countries may agree that their education and accreditation systems produce comparable results. Individuals who meet a certain international standard may then use the new common title. The European Engineer title (EurIng), covering some 24 countries and operated by FEANI, falls into this category. There are about 25,000 EurIngs.

A third possibility simply recognizes an academic component. The Washington Accord of 1989 is such an agreement. It depends upon mutual confidence in the respective national accreditation processes. Graduates of accredited courses in any of the participating countries are deemed to have satisfied the educational standards in the others. The six original members of the accord were Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. Subsequently, Hong Kong and South Africa have joined while Germany, Japan, and Malaysia are preparing to do so. The accord provides only for the mutual recognition of accredited degrees, but in 1997 discussions began to extend this to full mutual professional recognition, called the Engineers' Mobility Forum.

Finally, the European Commission's statement on Higher Education in June 1999, which is known as the Bologna Declaration, drew comment from many European delegates. It aims at a 3 + 2 pattern–where students spend three years on either a general or specialized degree to a bachelor's level and then two years to a master's level–throughout European higher education. One experienced contributor said that meetings about Bologna always left him confused–but at a higher level.


Educating Engineering Students in Entrepreneurship
- By Jack R. Lohmann

What words best describe an entrepreneur? Some possibilities are innovative, creative, hardworking, focused, artful, and passionate. But how does one teach engineering students the fundamental aspects of a successful entrepreneur? In an attempt to answer this question, the work presented during the entrepreneurship education portion of the colloquium focused primarily on academic programs—or parts of programs—online and outreach activities, and the underlying philosophies of entrepreneurship in education.

Educators said their primary goal is to help engineering students be better technological business innovators, that is, to be more effective in mobilizing and coordinating resources that move technological innovations to the market. Engineering students are already well grounded in technology; thus, these programs tend to emphasize the world of business, by including elements of negotiation, patents, intellectual property, venture capital, accounting and finance, business planning, and marketing. But the programs should also encourage a creative and innovative spirit through resourcefulness and risk-taking.

Successful programs share three common qualities: a planned program of multidisciplinary academic preparation that connects engineering to entrepreneurship; businesslike experience to practice entrepreneurship; and interaction with successful entrepreneurs.

It is common for these programs to reach out to their own institutional centers or those from nearby campuses, to focus on market needs specific to their location, and to capitalize on regional industrial or governmental initiatives. In large measure, they shape and define their market niche and capitalize on competitive advantages not readily available to others.

A good fit with an institution's mission of education and service can have a strong impact on a program's success. Institutions of higher education serve to contribute to society beyond their missions to educate students. Successful entrepreneurship programs serve as intellectual wells–attracting new technology ventures and resources to leverage regional economic opportunities. And they do so in ways that support the institutions' education and service missions without compromising their not-for-profit focus.

The unique institutional fit of entrepreneurship programs to the education and service mission of their institutions often leads to local and regional economic development. The impact is significant and highly visible to the community and its leadership. As a result, the entrepreneurship programs often receive valuable support and attract other new opportunities for their institutions.

The pursuit of continuous educational innovation from the outset is also important. This approach fulfills the constituents' needs and fosters a competition to make their programs even better. Successful entrepreneurial programs collaborate freely and share the goal of sharpening and strengthening their efforts. Their pursuit of educational innovation is as vigilant as their pursuit of technological innovation.

The principal problem facing program administrators is that student demand for these programs is stressing their resources and has the potential to outstrip their capacity to keep pace. They do not have enough time to adequately plan for and manage the growth of the entrepreneurial programs. Consequently, they face a shortage of readily accessible quality teaching materials and need to increase the number and breadth of faculty involved.

It is clear that as these programs grow, they constantly face a creative struggle to find the appropriate balance between the mechanics and the art of entrepreneurship. The former can be characterized by a focus on logical and rational approaches, an emphasis on the process of entrepreneurship, and development of cool-headed thinking. The latter is characterized by an emphasis on fostering a creative and innovative spirit, instilling the need for successful performance, and nurturing entrepreneurial passion and risk-taking. In essence, the programs often work hard to find the appropriate balance between developing "habits of the mind" and "habits of the hand"–a struggle often found in engineering education itself.


Russel C. Jones is managing partner of World Expertise, LLC.
Jack C. Levy is professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at
City University London and the European Commission's
international advisor for its Thematic Network E4.
Jack R. Lohmann is associate provost for institutional development
at Georgia Institute of Technology.

NASA Faculty Fellowship Program

The application deadline for the Summer 2003 program is February 1.

The NASA Faculty Fellowship Program offers science and engineering faculty at U.S. colleges and universities hands-on exposure to NASA's research challenges through 10-week summer research residencies and extended research opportunities at participating NASA research centers. Fellows work closely with NASA colleagues on challenges important to NASA's strategic enterprises. For more information or to apply online, please visit the program Web site:


Engineering Conferences International will host its conference entitled "Enhancement of the Global Perspective for Engineering Students by Providing an International Experience" April 6 to 11 in Tomar, Portugal. This conference will provide a forum for the exchange of ideas on methods for enhancing the global perspective of engineering students, identify the key obstacles, and discuss progress towards eliminating those obstacles. The conference is jointly sponsored by Engineering Conferences International; Ordem des Engenheiros, Portigual; and E4 (Enhancing Engineering Education in Europe: Thematic Network financed by the European Commission under SOCRATES II); and co-financed by the University of Florence. For additional information about this conference and a registration form, go to the conference's Web site:

About People

Marc I. Hoit, civil and coastal engineering professor, has been named associate dean for research and administration at the University of Florida college of engineering. He has served as interim associate dean since June 2001. Hoit, a member of the UF faculty since 1984, had previously served as assistant chair and interim chair of the civil and coastal engineering department.

John E. Prussing, professor of aeronautical and astronautical engineering at the University of Illinios at Urbana-Champaign was recently awarded the American Institutes of Aeronautics and Astronautics' 2002 Mechanics and Control of Flight Award. The award is presented, "For outstanding contribution to the theory and computation of optimal spacecraft trajectories by developing a practical, necessary, and sufficient condition test for optimality."

G. Kemble "Kem" Bennett is the new vice chancellor for engineering at Texas A&M University. As part of this appointment, Bennett now serves as the director of the Texas Engineering Experimentation Station and the dean of Texas A&M University's Dwight Look College of Engineering. Bennett joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1986 and since then has served as head of the university's industrial engineering department and as an associate dean of engineering. As the leader of the disaster response group the Texas Task Force, Bennett traveled to Ground Zero for special duty following the World Trade Center tragedy.