Lending a Hand
Wallace T. Fowler
almost every turn, we are faced with evidence that our public schools
are not adequately preparing students in mathematics and science.
Consequently, many students who could become good engineers never
get the chance. Articles in the February issue of Prism focused
on the problems of mathematics and science literacy among students
in public schools. Specific articles focused on a charter school
that is successful, the trouble with math and science textbooks,
and programs where universities work with public schools to improve
math and science education.
The poor state
of math and science education is well documented. The fall 2000
report by the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching
for the 21st Century, entitled "Before It's Too Late,"
summarizes these problems quite well. Public-school math and science
teachers are key to solving these problems but they need help.
districts are in a bind. They have to use teachers who don't have
math and science backgrounds to teach those subjects. As a result,
teachers are often unable to put either into a real-world context.
Not only that, many public-school teachers work in classrooms where
students are unmotivated, undisciplined, inattentive, and unappreciative
of their efforts. These same teachers must also perform such tasks
as monitoring the cafeteria, patrolling the halls and driving school
We do not treat
public-school teachers as professionals, nor do we pay them as such.
It is not surprising, then, that teachers with high-tech skills
who can easily double their salaries, cut their hours, and have
a safer and more enjoyable working environment are leaving the teaching
profession. The average length of the career of a young teacher
with high-tech skills is less than one academic year. We must find
ways to keep teachers with math and science backgrounds in the classroom.
We also need to help teachers without those backgrounds become more
proficient in math and science. Finally, we need to generate excitement
among all math and science teachers about these subjects.
Over the past
decade, programs have been initiated that address specific aspects
of the problems. For example, in 1989 the National Space Grant and
Fellowship Program (the space analog to the Land Grant and Sea Grant
programs) was created by Congress with a primary focus on improving
K-12 science, mathematics, and technology education. NSF sponsors
projects in this area, and many of the proposals for NASA's space
science projects have mandatory outreach components. Despite these
and other efforts, progress is disappointing.
In his article "Building Tomorrow's Workforce" in this
magazine last month, Alvin P. Sanoff gave examples of programs at
several universities that were created as a result of the shortcomings
documented in various studies. Karl Reid, dean of engineering, architecture
and technology at Oklahoma State, is quoted as describing these
programs as "islands of excellence." Reid also says "We
have to recognize that there is a crisis and then attack the crisis
in a much broader well-planned way."
education is an enormous enterprise. If we join with higher-education
programs in mathematics, science, and engineering technology education,
we represent an enormous talent pool that understands why mathematics
and science are important. And if we add all the citizens who are
educated in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology, we
have an even greater resource pool. We need to find ways to bridge
the gap between those who understand science, mathematics, and technology
and those who do not. The bridge must be built by those in science
and engineering who have all of the tools.
I believe ASEE
is the appropriate home for the "broader well-planned"
effort suggested by Karl Reid. One of our most neglected professional
responsibilities as engineers and engineering educators is the interpretation
of engineering, engineering technology, and applied science for
the nontechnical segment of society. There is no better place to
start than by working with public-school math and science teachers.
That is where we can be the most effective.
In early April,
I will appoint a task force to explore ways that ASEE can work with
mathematics and science teachers in the public schools. I hope to
have practicing engineers, engineering educators, science educators,
mathematics educators, and public-school teachers represented on
the task force. If you have worked with public-school students and
teachers in the past and want to share your ideas, or if you would
like to serve on the task force, please contact me by e-mail at
Berry has been named interim dean of engineering and engineering
technology at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas.
J. Bond, dean of engineering and technology at Alabama A&M
University, has been named Outstanding Electrical Engineer by Purdue
University, an award that honors those who have made major engineering
contributions in research, invention, and/or teaching.
Dollár, dean of Miami University's School of Engineering
and Applied Science, has received Poland's Presidential Professorship
Award. Dollár helped establish the International School of
Technology in Krakow.
Goodenough, professor of engineering at the University of Texas
at Austin, has received the $450,000 Japan Prize for his discoveries
of the materials critical to the development of lightweight rechargeable
Minsker, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, received the
Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE),
an award for research related to remediating groundwater contamination.
sections, and publications are welcome to publish calls for academic
papers in Prism. Please submit your calls at least 12 weeks prior
to desired publication and try to keep them under 200 words. All
calls will also be published on ASEE's Web site. Send submissions
to: ASEE Today, fax (202) 265-8504; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Engineering Program of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech
is hosting a conference on "Green Engineering: Sustainable
and Environmentally Conscious Engineering," July 29August
1, 2001, and has issued a call for papers. For more information,
contact Michael H. Gregg, Green Engineering Program, College of
Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0218; (540) 231-9544; fax (540) 231-6903; e-mail:
invited to submit papers for review to the Journal of Engineering
Technology. Refer to the latest issue for complete manuscript
requirements, a style guide for authors, and a list of topics of
interest. Submit 11 copies of the printed manuscript with abstract
and disk to: Timothy Zeigler, Southern Polytechnic State University,
100 S. Marietta Pkwy., Marietta, GA 30060; (770) 528-5495; fax (770)
528-5455; e-mail: email@example.com;
or see www.asee.org/publications.
of Engineering Education accepts unsolicited manuscripts for
review. The editors are looking for papers that make a strong contribution
to engineering and technology education, that further the development
of new ideas, and appeal to a broad readership of engineering educators
and others. For review, send six copies to: John Prados, Chemical
Engineering Dept., 419 Dougherty Engineering Bldg., University of
Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996; (615) 974-2421; fax (615) 974-7076;
Engineering Technical Society (JETS) is looking for engineering
problems to use in its Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics,
and Science (TEAMS), an academic competition for high school students.
TEAMS problems reflect the level of rigor found in first semester
engineering courses. See www.asee.org/jets/teams for the required
problem format and examples. For more information, contact Joe Essman,
School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Ohio University,
334 Stocker Center, Athens, OH 45701; (614) 593-1574; fax (614)
593-0007; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;
or see www.asee.org/jets.
The Boeing Company has instituted several programs that encourage
colleges and universities to enhance their engineering undergraduate
education. The Boeing Outstanding Educator Award is awarded to a
team or an individual at a university which has made outstanding
contributions to the improvement of undergraduate engineering education.
The A.D. Welliver Faculty Fellowship Program brings twelve tenured
faculty to Boeing for eight weeks in the summer to expose them to
the practice of engineering. For more information on either program,
Let us know about your division, section, and committee meetings
and activities. See www.asee.org/publications
for a meeting report form and send information to: ASEE Today, ASEE
Prism, 1818 N St., NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036; e-mail: