While studying for her bachelor's degree in applied
mathematics, Yvonne Yancey stumbled across Plato. Yancey, a senior
in the college of engineering and applied science at the University
at Boulder, discovered the seminal philosopher's work in the
Herbst Program of Humanities. Reading Plato has led her to seek out
of Nietzsche, C.S. Lewis, and Voltaire on her own. "Now that
started reading philosophy I just can't stop," she says.
Director Wayne Ambler says Herbst is based on an approach to education
that stresses engaging the complicated questions confronting
humankind as they appear in the great books of Western literature. "Is
there a purpose to human life? Is there a God," are two such
questions Ambler says. The program, he adds, is part of a general move
the departmental specialization that tends to seal off engineering
from literature and the arts. "Students should be able to follow
a question to wherever it leads," he says.
Founded in 1989 by
an endowment from chemical engineering alumnus Clarence Herbst, Jr.,
the program is a two-class sequence that satisfies the
humanities requirement. The first class has a fixed curriculum and
allows students to, Ambler says, read "a smattering of the great
fiction, poetry, and philosophy. The second course moves beyond the
study of specific texts to the completion of student projects that
underlying themes and ideas.
After completing projects on "Anna
Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy
and modern and contemporary literature, Yancey found she wasn't
quite ready to leave the humanities. Last year, she founded the Herbst
club, an informal, Friday-night discussion group modeled after the
program. Yancey credits her experience in the club's and program's
small discussion groups with helping her feel more comfortable speaking
in class and helping her meet students from other disciplines within
the college. Regarding any insight she's gained, Yancey says
amazing how close math, design, engineering, and philosophy are to
You wouldn't think in a class called Introduction
to Industrial and Systems Engineering that students would have to learn
origami—the ancient Japanese art of folding paper. But that's
exactly what's expected of them at the University of Florida. "The
Origami Project: The Tortoise and the Hare" is designed to teach
sophomores and early-junior engineering students about the teamwork
and cooperation necessary to succeed in industrial and systems engineering.
Students are grouped into teams of three or four and
required to make and "sell" as many paper tortoises and
hares as possible in 25 minutes. Prices for "buying" materials
and "renting" equipment
are set as are the prices "consumers" will pay for tortoises
and hares. To incorporate some consideration of real-life production
tradeoffs, tortoises command a higher price but take longer to make
than hares. Similarly, wages are set for the "workers" folding,
and there are quality control experts checking every tortoise and hare.
The currency in this economy is candy, and teams are paid their "profits" in
sugary confections. The winning team is the one with the highest profit
per team member.
The class, taught by industrial and systems engineering
Professor Richard Francis, uses origami to give an overview of the
concepts and ideas
involved in an industrial engineering career. He says there is no simple
like a bridge for civil engineering, to represent industrial and systems
engineering. "It's all about coordination and planning.
How do you represent that?" Perhaps a tortoise and a hare?