September 2011

>Revamped curricula show freshmen what it means to be an engineer.

Stephen Belkoff couldn’t get his first-year students to grasp the importance of free-body diagrams in statics, a pivotal segment of their introduction to mechanical engineering. So the Johns Hopkins University associate professor reached for a real-life illustration: Kansas City’s 1981 skywalk collapse, a record-breaking structural failure that killed 114 people and injured 216. As the class fell pin-drop silent, Belkoff challenged the freshmen to place themselves in the pre-construction design phase and find its fatal lapse. “You have enough information — you can save lives with what you know now,” he told them. “The diagram screams there’s a flaw.” Electrified, the students plunged into an analysis of the forces and loads behind the disaster. Most eventually became engineering majors.

Forget forced marches through foundational math or slogs through theory. Students nationwide are gaining a freshman engineering experience their instructors never had. Some get tossed their first screwdriver and learn “righty tighty, lefty loosey” while fumbling to reassemble a cam shaft. Others devise products for destitute developing-world villagers, race mousetrap cars, or dismantle bicycles to develop a feel for physics. Chemistry boot camps, grade-free first semesters, even engineering-themed dorms are becoming more common. So are introductory classes, like Belkoff’s, that demonstrate how even limited engineering knowledge can be applied in important ways.

The varied offerings reflect a deep rethinking not only of the knowledge and skills needed to become successful engineers but of how to engage and motivate fledglings just getting used to college. All aim to get freshmen so excited about engineering they’ll develop what Susan Freeman, a first-year program coordinator at Northeastern University’s college of engineering, calls “grittiness” – confidence and determination to persist through the inevitable setbacks and demanding coursework ahead.

“Most students coming in have an ill-formed notion of what engineering is, and the traditional [introductory] course doesn’t help them get that,” explains Gary Gabriele, Drosdick endowed dean of Villanova University’s college of engineering, which recently overhauled its entire first-year curriculum.

Just as athletes must do calisthenics, freshmen still “have to do the calculus and physics to play the game of engineering,” says Kevin Hemker, professor and Alonzo G. Decker chair of the Johns Hopkins mechanical engineering department. “You can’t short-circuit the training.” But now, there’s more effort to coordinate core science with hands-on engineering problem solving that lets students apply the formulas and theories, and demonstrate mastery. Schools are recognizing that the traditional sequence of math and science capped by a senior design project scares many potential concentrators away. Too often students “have this bad first- or second-year experience in engineering, and they transfer out,” notes University of Maryland Associate Dean William Fourney. That’s something engineering schools can no longer afford if the country wants to produce more STEM graduates. While engineering has roughly the same proportion of dropouts as other majors, its students – unlike those in the humanities or other sciences – rarely migrate in from other fields, according to an extensive 2009 Purdue University study.

Even schools with relatively robust retention rates have sensed the need to up their game. At Johns Hopkins, where roughly 4 in 5 incoming students stick with engineering, “we were seeing the students not retaining information from freshman to sophomore year,” recounts Allison Okamura, who led the revamp of the first-year mechanical engineering curriculum. Sophomores had trouble applying first-year physics in second-year dynamics classes; freshmen couldn’t relate what they learned in computer class to engineering practice. Their paucity of practical skills gnawed at Belkoff: “These are all A students, and it took two days to build a shelf from Home Depot and get it ass-backwards.”


One model of a new approach is the Keystone first-year engineering program at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. “We ought to be doing this right, instead of treating freshmen like we don’t want them to be here,” Fourney, a veteran professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, recalls telling the dean back in 1997. Existing hands-on projects were “rinky-dink,” he thought. “If we’re going to do this, then let’s make it more challenging. It may be difficult, but when students do it successfully, there will be no holding them back.” Led by Fourney, the faculty refocused the introductory course around a capstone autonomous hovercraft design/build/test competition with an in-house textbook that integrates fluids, dynamics, electronics, and computer programming. It’s taught by senior faculty selected because they enjoy teaching first-year students, not because they drew a short straw. Even though budget cuts removed a bonus, professors clamor to make the roster. Reaching outside engineering, the program got the chemistry department to contribute top instructors.

At Villanova, engineering Dean Gary Gabriele told faculty to “figure out what would be the best first-year experience we could offer” if resources weren’t a problem. Enthusiasm grew, and produced a redesign intended to give students an intuitive feel or “kinetic” knowledge of engineering. They take protractors, stopwatches, and measuring tapes over to the student union pool tables to reinforce lessons in calculus and momentum. They design such products as a simple artificial kidney, or use acoustical devices to reveal cracks in concrete. Public speaking requirements help develop the future entrepreneur.

First-year innovation is nothing new at the University of Colorado, Boulder, a pioneer in project-based learning, but it keeps evolving. Take Assistant Prof. Katie Siek’s Games for Health, a first-year design course that culminates in a field-tested product or service to tackle a major public-health problem, such as obesity. Students must incorporate elements from every discipline, including environmental and computer engineering. Joseph Schmitz, a freshman last year in the University of Colorado’s aerospace engineering program, recalls jumping “blind” into Games for Health and “pretty much learning from our mistakes.” Results: an exercise-oriented version of the popular Super Mario video game played with a touch pad, and an exercise bike that lets riders play Tetris by pedaling faster.


Freshmen often arrive clueless about navigating college life but ready to be challenged. Allison Okamura, now at Stanford, found they have “no preconception of what they can’t do. They’re willing to try anything.” Effective programs embrace this eagerness while catering to newbies’ distinct needs, providing mentoring, social support systems, and top teaching. They stress engineering’s importance to society, and provide ample opportunity to learn from failure. Students often get to choose projects that tap into their passion to make a difference – for instance, by devising cheap water pumps for impoverished African villagers. The intent of redesigning the first-year experience is not to persuade every incoming student to pursue engineering, says Old Dominion University’s engineering dean, Oktay Baysal, who oversaw the development of a common first-year curriculum, but “to inform them about engineering as quickly as possible and break down stereotypes,” so when they choose to major in it, it’s “not because your uncle said so, but for the right reasons.”

Doing all this well requires a shrewd reappraisal of the traditional core. Deciding what courses to drop can trigger turf battles. “It’s easier to move a cemetery than change an engineering curriculum,”cheerily acknowledges Villanova’s Gabriele. Johns Hopkins solved the sticky question of introductory physics by incorporating just a semester’s worth of key concepts into mechanical engineering while the physics department continues to offer circuits and other fundamentals. Project learning demands more faculty coaching time and extra facilities, including lab space. Games for Health meant Colorado’s Siek spent five hours in the classroom, held two office-hour sessions, and met for an hour with all 12 faculty members who teach the first-year design lab sections, with a separate TAs’ meeting on top of that load. She also spent time learning how to work the lathe and solder, and boning up on topics from adaptive technologies to math to help guide students through their projects. “I had to get my hands dirty so I could teach my students,” she explains.


Mentoring helps students contend with college pressures. “I have to plan in my head, OK, two weeks into the semester they’re going to start missing home, three weeks into the semester and there will be problems with learning disabilities and breakups” with girlfriends and boyfriends back home, Siek says. Later in the term, she will chide students about getting sufficient sleep and plan cookie breaks and pizza parties during the big crush to finish projects. Her mantra: “Everything is possible with pizza.”

To encourage office visits, Sheryl Ehrman, a professor in Maryland’s first-year program and chairman of the chemical and biomolecular engineering department, hosted a scavenger hunt to find her out-of-the-way digs. At Johns Hopkins, Okamura spent half a lecture on time management—“couched in terms of engineering project management.”

The University of North Carolina, Charlotte, combines freshman advising with a taste of professional practice. “It’s very much set up like a business,” says Patricia Tolley, assistant dean of engineering. Freshmen, who can choose to live in an engineering dorm, are called interns in a company and receive “performance evaluations” instead of just grades. Advisers include the director of employer relations and a senior designer from industry. Alumni and employers are brought in to explain how engineers work.

With the revamped curricula and advising structure has come a new emphasis on first-year teaching, once a chore often relegated to teaching assistants. Johns Hopkins, for instance, has freed mechanical engineering senior lecturer Steven Marra from research to teach full time this fall. At Northeastern University’s college of engineering, all six first-year gateway instructors are full-time teachers, “so you can be insanely committed to the success of the students,” says senior academic specialist and first-year coordinator Beverly Jaeger (see award, p.67). For Northeastern instructor Stanley Forman, a retired electrical engineer, the most important mentoring is “the part of the curriculum not on the syllabus” — life lessons, like cautioning errant freshmen they would risk getting fired at a full-time job. Such frankness goes down more easily because Forman spends the first three weeks of each semester talking one-on-one with students.

The role of teaching assistants is changing to become part of the mentoring process. “In our lab, they’re not called TAs or instructors,” says University of Calgary engineering graduate student Tiffany Veltman. “We call them coaches.” Colorado’s Katie Siek, a new fan of TA mentoring, invites freshmen to conduct research and pairs them with graduate students, giving them access to labs and shared work space.

Engineering tends to draw students with strong math and science aptitude but different levels of preparation and skills. “If you had your druthers, you’d put them in different classes,” says Lester Su, a professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins before moving to Stanford in July. Freshmen often have a fuzzy notion of what engineering is all about. “The premeds know exactly what they’re in for,” says Su. “They’ve all been to the doctor; they know what it means to see patients. But [engineering students] have no idea what it means to be an engineering professional or in academia.”

Old Dominion University grapples with both these problems. Its introductory curriculum presumes no high-level math or science and links foundational courses with engineering. Even a failed design project can underscore the importance of a particular physics principle, for instance, while a technical writing course can be shown to make a big difference in a chemistry lab report.

Responding to an evident dearth of practical skills among freshmen, many schools offer design/build/test experiences. “How are you going to design something if you’ve never built anything?” asks University of Virginia biomedical engineering Professor William Guilford, an Ohio farm boy. In his introductory engineering course, freshmen design, build, and race baby carriages sturdy enough to take the Appalachian Trail.

Johns Hopkins has its first-year mechanical engineering students take apart, reassemble, and ride a bike. Students scramble to retrieve ball bearings that an inattentive twist of the handlebars sent bouncing. They learn about forces by scrutinizing the brake system. Even tool-savvy students like Sarah McElman, now starting her fourth year in mechanical engineering, find that taking apart the gear system illuminates math ratios and how they translate into torque far better than any physics class. Helping freshmen develop this “physical intuition” for what it means to shift gears or huff uphill is critical to their future success as engineers, says Stephen Belkoff. “You can show them a PowerPoint,” he explains, “but if I’m holding a ball bearing, that little extra tactile feedback sinks the message into their heads.” Over the course of the year, freshmen dismantle internal combustion engines, wrestle with cam shafts, manufacture lacrosse balls, and race mousetrap cars. Just getting dirty “in and of itself is valuable,” reflects McElman.

Besides building practical skills, first-year programs tap into a growing desire among today’s students to help society. Ohio Northern University, for instance, asks teams to invent a product to fight poverty. Students study the topography, climate, and economic challenges of a struggling African, Asian, or Latin American nation. Many have found clean water to be a crucial need – and designed water filters to meet it. Others have turned trash into cooking briquettes.


Early results suggest that re-engineering the first-year experience has paid off in higher retention rates and greater student engagement. Before the Keystone program’s inception, for example, roughly two thirds of the 800 freshmen admitted to the University of Maryland’s flagship engineering school abandoned the major. Now, 90 percent return for sophomore year, with the engineering school graduating two thirds of its much better-prepared students in five years. Other institutions, like Old Dominion, that incorporated hands-on, team-based first-year design projects have seen similar jumps in retention.

A 2007 longitudinal study by a University of Colorado, Boulder team found first-year project experiences produced “significant confidence gains” in engineering skills among students. Colorado, whose integrated freshman design program has been a model for other schools, for instance, had a 64 percent seventh-semester retention rate for students who took the course, compared with a 53 percent published graduation rate for the engineering school as a whole. Notre Dame notched up 9 percent, to 99 percent of freshmen saying they intended to continue after taking the introductory course. Ohio Northern’s first-year engineering students typically win half the awards in the school’s annual entrepreneurship competition — an “awesome” feat, says first-year director Kenneth Reid, given that most participants are business and pharmacy upperclassmen.

Surprisingly, however, research at the University of Virginia cast doubt on whether project-based experiences actually improve freshman attitudes and “mindset” about engineering. Guilford, who took on the redesign of his department’s sections of the first-year program, made it “as hands-on, grimy, dirty, and design/build/test as could possibly be imagined.” Yet when Guilford and psychologists looked at an implicit association test designed to measure students’ zest for engineering, they found no difference between freshmen who engaged in conceptual design and lectures and his own super-engaged baby buggy builders. In fact, freshman engineering students and practicing engineers alike showed no strong bias in favor of their chosen career path. “Are we trying to achieve something that’s unachievable?” he wonders.

A better gauge of these programs’ merit, contends Johns Hopkins Mechanical Engineering Department Chair Kevin Hemker, comes from exit interviews with graduating seniors. Many say they appreciated the value of freshman design activities after tackling their senior capstone project. Indeed, trends are encouraging enough for momentum to build behind further innovation. Freshmen, get ready to rock and roll up your sleeves.

Mary Lord is associate editor of Prism.

Engineers stoke the natural-gas boom – and investigate its risks.

Beneath the headline “Good News About Gas,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemistry professor John Deutch, a former U.S. undersecretary of energy, deputy defense secretary, and CIA director, rhapsodized about technological advances that make it economical to extract vast amounts of natural gas from shale fields deep below the Earth’s crust. “It is perhaps a permissible exaggeration to claim a natural gas revolution,” he wrote in the January Foreign Affairs. A few months later, the Paris-based International Energy Agency proclaimed that recoverable shale gas reserves worldwide were ushering in a “golden era” for natural gas.

Revolution? Golden era? Those aren’t terms scientists toss about lightly. Why the euphoria? Natural gas offers many benefits to a world desperately trying to reduce its carbon footprint. It pollutes, but it still burns much more cleanly than oil and coal. A June MIT study, in which Deutch participated, estimated that replacing U.S. coal-fired electric plants with gas, while simultaneously reducing energy demands, could cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 50 percent by 2050. And if it were put to greater use as a transportation fuel, it could help reduce America’s dependence on imported oil. Moreover, the United States now has access to far more gas than previously expected. Last spring, the federal Energy Information Administration estimated that America’s recoverable shale gas reserves total 827 trillion cubic feet – more than double its 2010 estimate.

The prospect of abundant global supplies of natural gas is one reason for a swelling demand for petroleum engineers, a consequent surge in student enrollment, and stiffer competition at schools like the University of Houston, which is expanding its petroleum engineering program. Far and away, petroleum engineering is the highest paying engineering degree, starting around $100,000 a year. Fortune reports that nearly all petroleum engineering grads from schools like Texas A&M and the Colorado School of Mines last year found employment. In Washington, talk of a shale gas bonanza has strengthened opponents of President Obama’s push to advance renewable fuels and a clean-energy economy.

Critics say the optimism over shale is misplaced. They fear the processes used to extract shale gas will contaminate groundwater supplies and fill the air with smog-causing pollutants. The surge in shale gas production has generated a spate of lawsuits, bans, and congressional and statehouse hearings. Last month, an Energy Department-appointed task force – led by Deutch – said the processes posed a potentially serious problem and urged both government and industry to take preventive action: “Effective action requires both strong regulation and a shale gas industry in which all participating companies are committed to continuous improvement.”

MIT’s study concludes that environmental problems caused by shale gas production are “challenging but manageable.” That translates into the need for better regulation, more government-funded basic research, and applied research and development by industry. And just as engineers are key to extracting gas from shale, they’re also examining potential dangers to the public.

The technology behind the shale boom involves horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – or fracking, to use the industry nickname. It releases gas from organic-rich shale, a splintery sediment formed of compacted mud, clay, and minerals, by blasting the rock with millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals — some toxic — to create fissures. Fracking is not new; the industry has used it in oil wells for around 60 years. In the 1980s it began to be used to improve production of “tight gas” from low-permeability wells.

While geologists have long known that gas was locked within the pore spaces and vertical fractures of 400 million-year-old shale deposits, until just a few years ago there was no economical way to tap into it and make it flow out quickly. Then, during a period when domestic gas prices began rising – they peaked in 2008 at $13 per million Btu – entrepreneurial operators in Texas’s Barnett shale field began experimenting. They combined horizontal drilling – drilling a mile down, then a mile or more sideways into the shale – with fracturing. It worked like a charm, though initially the process was quite expensive. But technological advances were so swift that the process remained cost effective even as gas prices tumbled.

Now the price is creeping back up. Michael Economides, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Houston, forecasts that the domestic price of gas – now about $4 – will rise to $6 later this year, and to $8 by 2015. Yet even at those prices, gas will still remain much cheaper than liquid petroleum, says research engineer Francis O’Sullivan, executive director of MIT’s Energy Sustainability Challenge Program. Gas at $6, on an energy-equivalent basis, is as cheap as $36-a-barrel oil.

Groundwater Pollution

So shale gas is plentiful and a bargain. But concern about safety is mounting. In May, Duke University scientists reported finding evidence of methane contamination of drinking water associated with shale gas extraction. They investigated 60 water wells in Pennsylvania, one of several states that are home to the massive Marcellus field, and found high levels of methane in 13 of 26 wells located within a kilometer of a fracking site. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Duke team suggested there are “important environmental risks accompanying shale gas exploration worldwide.” MIT’s group looked at 43 major reported incidents of environmental damage. Of these, almost half appeared to involve natural gas contamination of shallow ground water zones.

Fracking itself evidently was not the culprit, though that may be little comfort to people living atop polluted wells. “My best guess is it leaks out of the well casings,” says Robert Jackson, a biologist and chemical engineer who wrote the Duke paper. MIT’s O’Sullivan agrees. “It’s always a poor cement job.” Duke’s investigators looked for, but did not find, evidence of fracking fluids in water supplies. However, Jackson says, it is possible that pressure created by fracking inadvertently cracks the casings. “No one knows if hydraulic fracturing causes the leaks or not,” he says.

Most of the fracking fluid injected into gas wells remains below ground, often separated from aquifers by thousands of feet “of thick, nonporous rock that won’t let the fracturing fluids through,” explains Jennifer Miskimins, an associate professor of petroleum engineering at the Colorado School of Mines.

Still, the entire extraction process poses other risks, including the immense amount of water required, contamination from wastewater disposal, and spills of drilling fluids, or “slickwater,” which typically contain hydrochloric acid and chemicals used in bleaches, medical disinfectant, and glass cleaner. Some slickwater — perhaps around 25 to 30 percent — does return to the surface as flowback. And a third of the 43 incidents MIT examined resulted from spills or improper disposal of flowback.

One possible fix: recycling of flowback. That’s a process the industry began testing in 2004, and it’s now becoming standard procedure, in part because there’s evidence that recycled frack fluids are highly effective. Also, the less water used, the less there is to dispose of, which saves money. “There is a huge (research) opportunity to reduce the volume of water and the number of chemicals used” in fracking, O’Sullivan says. Kelvin Gregory, a civil and environmental engineer at Carnegie Mellon University, is leading a $1 million, three-year study on ways to improve the recycling of fracking fluids. He notes, “Companies realize you don’t always have to frack with a witch’s brew of chemicals.”

Exhaust Fumes

Air pollution has also drawn attention from federal and state officials. Many operators use diesel-powered compressors to pump the water and run heavy equipment, and truck traffic in and out of drill sites is nonstop. A study at the Barnett field found that oil and gas production there in 2009 churned 18,615 tons of nitrogen oxides into the air, equivalent to what an unfiltered, midsized coal-fired plant would produce. Earlier this year, a Cornell University study claimed that shale gas production may be twice as dirty as coal. But the IEA’s spring report found that shale gas’s CO2 emissions, from well to burn, were only 3.5 percent higher than conventional gas.

One way to cut emissions is to use natural gas-powered compressors. Efforts to reduce water usage – thus haulage – should cut down on truck traffic, thereby also reducing diesel fumes.

How long can the shale boom last? Reports in the New York Times have questioned the IEA’s rosy estimate of shale reserves, and noted that while some shale wells were big moneymakers, many others were losers. The industry’s track record, however, is one of drilling many wells and achieving profits based on a performance-probability distribution. Companies also take account of the speedy decline of many wells by planning to make their profits on each well in the first year or two. Miskimins says the industry has shown it can increase productivity while shrinking costs. Major energy companies, like Exxon Mobil, are now getting involved in shale gas extraction. Experts say they’re less likely than small, independent operators to take shortcuts that lead to leaks and spills.

Still, Economides worries that opponents’ “hysteria” will spur lawmakers to over-regulate and cause operators to walk away from shale. Carnegie Mellon’s Gregory says both sides have been guilty of hyperbole. “I hope we can cut through all that with some strong science.” With a mix of annoyance and amusement, he offers an anecdote that says a lot about engineers’ stake in a shale boom – and in a strong domestic petroleum industry. A student of his who graduated just two years ago now works for Schlumberger, a leading industry service company: “He’s earning twice as much as me.”

Thomas K. Grose is Prism’s chief correspondent, based in London.

Don Giddens wants ASEE to be a key player in engineering.

A few years ago, Don Giddens chaired a National Academies study on ways to improve Americans’ perception of engineering. Among the image-changing messages it proposed was a declaration that engineers “help shape the future.” The report didn’t offer Giddens’s own career as proof, but it could have. From aerospace engineering in the mid-1960s, when missiles were hot, to the expanding field of biomedical engineering and the helm of a top engineering college, Giddens has matched the tempo of a profession grabbing hold of big challenges. Now, as president of ASEE, he wants to help shape a future for the society as a central player in the field.

Growing up in Augusta, Ga., Giddens was in some ways a model future engineer, the kind many engineering faculty wish they saw more of nowadays. Not only did he love math and science in high school, drawing inspiration from an outstanding math teacher, but he loved tinkering around with his chemistry set, model airplanes, and trains – “not virtual things but real things.” Yet he credits an English teacher with instilling enthusiasm for the humanities and an enduring indoor pastime of writing short stories – short, he says in a deep, silky drawl, because “I don’t have the time to write anything longer.” (His outdoor passions are camping, hiking, and white-water kayaking.)

Specializing in aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech, Giddens got an undergrad coop job at Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta. After obtaining his Ph.D., he spent two years designing missile re-entry systems at Aerospace Corp. in San Bernardino, Calif. It was a logical career path at the height of the Cold War and the space race between the United States and Soviet Union, and Giddens wanted to get industry experience. But he had enjoyed his first taste of teaching – a first-year math course while he was a college senior – and missed the research freedom offered by academe.

In 1968, he returned to Georgia Tech as an assistant professor. While ascending the ranks to Regents Professor and chair of aerospace engineering, Giddens underwent a metamorphosis in his research interests. He was drawn to the kind of engineering where, he says, “turning ideas into reality has an immense impact directly and indirectly on society.” His background in fluid mechanics enabled him to make a gradual transition in the 1970s into biomedical engineering, using engineering principles to study disease mechanisms and blood flow with a view to improving early detection and treatment. His work would gain increasing recognition over the next two decades. In 1999, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for “contributions to the understanding of the ultrasound and fluid mechanics of arteriosclerosis, and enhancing academic bioengineering education.” Looking back on his career shift, Giddens reflects, “When I was working on missiles, I was hoping that as an engineer my work would never get used. As a biomedical engineer, I hoped that what I worked on would be used.”

Giddens’s research required cross-disciplinary collaboration with physicians and biologists, but that fit the way he liked to operate. “He’s definitely a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts guy,” says Michael Johns, chancellor of Emory University, who has worked closely with Giddens for nearly two decades. “He sees the opportunity for bringing together people who might not otherwise collaborate but when they do, a lot can happen and that’s a very powerful thing.”

Recruited in 1992 as dean of the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, where Johns was then dean of medicine, Giddens found that as an administrator, “you get satisfaction in a less direct way than in teaching a class or writing a good research paper, but there’s a lot of satisfaction nonetheless.” He made a deliberate effort to continue working directly with graduate students. Monica Hinds had started her Ph.D. with Giddens at Georgia Tech and didn’t hesitate to follow him to Hopkins, as did two other students. “He was phenomenal to work with,” recalls Hinds, now an assistant professor in the biomedical engineering department of Oregon Health and Science University. “He would listen to your ideas even if they were kind of out there and still find something good about them and be very complimentary. Then he’d steer you in the right direction.”

Building a New Department

Georgia Tech lured Giddens back with a challenge that he found very appealing: launching a biomedical engineering program with Emory University, a unique partnership between a public engineering school and a private medical school. Smithsonian Institution Secretary Wayne Clough, who was then president of Georgia Tech, recalls: “He had a great relationship with Emory and knew all the major players there in the medical program.” Clough adds, “Don brings a lot to the table. He’s very bright and an engaging person as well as a good fundraiser.”

Michael Johns, by then executive vice president for health affairs at Emory, was surprised that Giddens would leave Hopkins but thought him a perfect choice for the complicated assignment. “When you’re doing something that’s risky and you have to navigate tricky waters, it’s very helpful if you have someone who is not only extremely helpful and competent but also someone who understands both institutions and someone you trust. The biggest thing was trust. [Provost] Michael Thomas had complete trust in Don, and so did I.”

Giddens developed a framework for the new program and won approval from both the Board of Regents of the state system and the Emory trustees in three months – a lightning pace for large institutions. He then set about preparing curricula, hiring staff, and getting a new building constructed. Marvels Johns: “He created a unified department, created it from scratch, and today it’s one of the top three in the country. What more can you say?”

After five years running the new department, Giddens says, “I figured it was time for a new person to come in to the biomedical engineering department with the same kind of energy I had at the outset and take it to the proverbial next level.” The next level for him was to become dean of engineering, a major leap in scale from the position he had held at Johns Hopkins. Georgia Tech graduates more engineers than any other college in the United States, and consistently ranks among the top 10 schools in the country across all engineering disciplines. “I have a couple of departments at Tech that have more students and faculty than the entire engineering school at Hopkins when I was there,” Giddens says.

Confronting Society’s Problems

Giddens earned accolades from his colleagues as chair of ASEE’s Engineering Deans Council (EDC) from 2007 to 2009. “Don is very thoughtful, thorough, fair, and seeks consensus – basically all the qualities you look for in an academic leader,” says Kenneth Galloway, dean at Vanderbilt University, who succeeded Giddens as chair. Leah Jamieson, dean at Purdue University, says he possesses “the perfect mix of deep understanding and a sense of humor.” Invariably, whatever the topic, “all of us would be waiting to hear what Don would have to say.”

The EDC drew Giddens more deeply into public policy, as did his chairmanship of an 18-month National Academy of Engineering study of new messages to inform the public about engineering and encourage more young people – particularly women and underrepresented minorities – to join the field. Jamieson, who participated in the panel, says Giddens pulled together “about as diverse a group as you can imagine: people involved in K-12 education, experts in media, public relations people, as well as representatives from industry.” In a departure from most National Academies studies, the NAE panel enlisted market-research and communications pros, Madison Avenue style, to conduct focus groups and test new messages. He hasn’t let the panel’s 2008 report, Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering, gather dust on a shelf. He’s been active in the subsequent creation of an online tool kit to help engineering educators and professional societies become better communicators.

One way Changing the Conversation seeks to alter public perceptions is to stress how engineering contributes to prosperity, quality of life, and health. Engineering education, Giddens predicts, will take this contribution a step further. At Georgia Tech and elsewhere, it will focus on big problems, “ones associated with important societal issues such as the better distribution of energy, how to supply humanitarian aid after a disaster, and the field of healthcare stretching far beyond just biomedical engineering.” All these issues will require people with a wide range of expertise, since, as he puts it, “no one discipline can lay claim to being able to solve these complex problems.”

Recently retired from Georgia Tech, Giddens, 70, wants to help ASEE forge robust relationships with the NAE and National Science Foundation, as well as with professional societies, to play a key role in this multidisciplinary challenge. Based on what he has achieved so far, few would underestimate his ability to turn this latest idea into reality.

Pierre Home-Douglas is a freelance writer based in Montreal.

A survival guide for new faculty.

Starting your first university teaching job can feel a lot like groping in the dark. Just ask Stephan Durham and Wes Marshall, who had little to go on as newly minted assistant professors of civil engineering at the University of Colorado, Denver and looked to each other for advice. Both had only limited teaching experience as graduate students. Marshall’s wife studied pedagogy for years to become an elementary school teacher, but as for him, “I happen to be a good transportation researcher, which apparently means I’m also qualified to teach” at the college level.

Their predicament was hardly unique. “Being a college professor is probably the only profession in existence where no training is routinely given before or after you’ve started,” says Richard Felder, an emeritus professor of chemical engineering at North Carolina State University and codirector of the National Effective Teaching Institute. “You’re expected to learn on your own.” Lucky ones are assigned a mentor, but oftentimes new faculty are left to fend for themselves even as pressures on them are increasing. “Now new faculty are expected to come in and immediately start generating huge grants and churning out papers in their first two years rather than taking some time to learn their craft,” says Felder. Adds Donna Llewellyn, director of the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning at the Georgia Institute of Technology: “Of all new faculty, the ones who have the least experience teaching are in engineering. . . . You’ll never meet someone who has their Ph.D. in English who hasn’t taught because that’s the way universities teach English comp. Sometimes engineering Ph.D.’s have experience as teaching assistants, but a lot of times that just means grading.”

Durham and Marshall survived the experience – Durham has tenure; Marshall is on a tenure track – and teamed up to write a joint paper, “Tips for Succeeding as a New Engineering Assistant Professor,” delivered at ASEE’s 2011 annual conference. Here are some pointers offered by them, Felder, Llewellyn, and other experts.


Many schools have teaching centers – some, like the University of Michigan, have centers geared specifically for engineering educators – that offer workshops on everything from time management to active learning, as well as observation and feedback in the classroom. Universities also typically offer guidance for grant-writing through departments or an office of sponsored programs.


Llewellyn suggests, “Find out who taught the course last and say, ‘Can I borrow your syllabus?’ People are usually willing to help. It’s much easier to edit a course than to write a new one.” Felder notes, “Your colleagues really want you to succeed, but they’re as busy as you are so they’re not going to knock on your door asking how they can help you today.” He suggests dropping in to their offices, asking advice, and going to lunch with them to build collaborative relationships and learn the culture. After all, these are the people who will be voting on your tenure. If you haven’t been assigned a mentor, Durham and Marshall urge, seek one out.


Most new faculty spend nine to 10 hours preparing for each hour of lecture, according to Robert Boice, author of the 1992 book Advice For New Faculty Members. That’s 27 to 30 hours a week for one three-hour course. “They get the idea that every bit of human knowledge needs to be in their lecture notes and that it’s their responsibility to be prepared to answer every question, so they’re killing themselves,” says Felder, who thinks three to four hours of preparation per course hour is sufficient in the first year.


Packing too much into a lecture can backfire. “It won’t be effective. People learn by doing, not listening,” Felder argues. In fact, students begin to lose focus after about 10 minutes. To make the most of those precious moments, Marshall cut his lectures in half, picking up the pace and integrating media, like Internet videos. He also engaged his students with more in-class questions and problems based on real world-type situations.


In their paper, Marshall and Durham reiterate Boice’s advice that instructors should time themselves taking their own exams and allow students three times longer. Another pointer offered by Boice and Felder: Grade tough on homework and easier on timed exams.


“You eventually have to fly on your own, but you can learn more in a year working alongside an expert researcher than in five years on your own,” says Felder. Durham tapped local industry contacts outside of the university as potential collaborators and sponsors. “I emailed a bunch of them and took them to lunch.” The networking paid off when the Colorado Department of Transportation ended up funding his research. He notes the importance of staying in touch with potential sponsors. “It’s all about being visible.” When picking a research topic, likelihood of funding is an important consideration, experts say, but chances of success are greater if the subject excites you.


Being proactive is essential to attracting the best and brightest. “It’s an intensively competitive arena; you’ve got to treat it like a public relations exercise. Sell yourself and your research. Present yourself as a mentor,” advises Felder. “If you don’t, all of the good grad students will be taken and you’ll be left with the ones no one wants to work with.”


“Handing responsibilities to research students is not only a management strategy; it is also an opportunity for them to develop credentials,” says Adrienne Minerick, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University. “When they are productive and earn accolades, so do I.”


“It’s easy to fall into the trap of spending all of your time teaching,” warns Llewellyn. “If you don’t spend time worrying about research, you won’t be around to worry about teaching for very long.” Felder advises reserving a half-hour of productive time per day to work on a proposal. Saving scholarly writing for the next weekend or school break is a recipe for never getting to it, he cautions.


Avoid sitting on nonessential committees that will be of little help when it comes to promotions or tenure. Durham’s mentor urged him to readjust priorities. “He told me I was doing too much service. You want to do a little bit, but too much of it can be detrimental.”


“When you get immersed in all of the demands on your time, it’s easy to keep shoving those on the back burner,” Felder says. “Unless you make them top priorities, things may start to go wrong, and that’s where all your time will go.”

Margaret Loftus is a freelance writer based in Boston.

Opening Lines
By Mark Matthews

September is the month for introductions: Incoming freshmen get acquainted with campus life and each other.  Freshly hired instructors find their footing. At Prism, it’s usually a time to roll out a few changes. One of them is this From the Editor message, in which I will preview each issue’s offerings and explain why we think they’re worth your attention.  Although recently given the editor’s title, I’ve been working alongside a group of talented designers and writers at Prism since mid-2007, after many years as an editor and diplomatic correspondent for the Baltimore Sun.

Also new this month is a column, “Leading Edge,” by former technology executive Vivek Wadhwa. He’s a computer engineer and M.B.A. who now teaches and conducts research at several universities, advising startups on the side. He has a lot to say, and will appear in rotation with new columns by Mark Raleigh, an engineering graduate student at the University of Washington, and Debbie Chachra, associate professor of materials science at Olin College. All three respond to what Norman Fortenberry, ASEE’s executive director, saw as a need to include a broader range of voices in Prism.

For first-year students who aspire to be engineers, their introduction too often turns out badly and they migrate to other fields. Fortunately, a number of engineering schools have recognized this and are revamping their first-year programs. As Associate Editor Mary Lord reports extensively in our cover story, “Seeing and Doing,” the changes are many and varied, but all share a goal of getting first-year students so excited about engineering they’ll persevere through years of demanding courses.

Freshly hired assistant professors face different challenges but have reason to feel similarly anxious. Many arrive with no serious training in how to teach and are suddenly required to learn their new craft while generating outside research funding and producing papers. For them, Margaret Loftus’s “Rules for Rookies” offers a survival guide. One key lesson can apply both to new faculty and freshmen: Don’t be shy about seeking help.

The coming year promises to be eventful and active for Don Giddens, ASEE’s new president. Recently retired as dean of engineering at Georgia Tech, he wants ASEE to become the go-to authority on engineering education. He elaborates in his first President’s Letter, which opens the ASEE Today section. You’ll learn from our profile, “Creating Buzz,” that Giddens has a track record of success in what he sets out to do.

We hope this and future issues will maintain the standard of high-quality journalism, art, and graphics set by longtime editor-in-chief Bob Black, who is taking on new responsibilities at ASEE as adviser for society affairs.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions on how Prism can better serve ASEE members.

Mark Matthews

Breakthroughs and trends


Too Far, Too Fast?

By measurements alone, the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge is an epic engineering feat. This 26-mile, six-lane, $2.3 billion span — touted as the world’s longest sea bridge — required enough steel to erect 65 Eiffel Towers and sufficient concrete to fill 3,800 Olympic pools, London’s Daily Telegraph calculated. It’s designed to withstand the bay’s high salt content and winter ice, along with typhoons, a magnitude 8 earthquake, and getting rammed by an off-course 300,000-ton ship. But when the bridge opened on the eve of the Chinese Communist Party’s 90th anniversary, press accounts drew attention to guardrails with loosely fastened nut caps and sections lacking lights and guardrails altogether. Glitches in this and other trophy projects — including power failures along a new Beijing-Shanghai link in the world’s longest high-speed rail network — raised questions about China’s rush to expand transportation. When two trains collided in Wenzhou on July 23, killing dozens, questions gave way to public anger.


Hospital Germ-killer

One of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract an infection during his or her stay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now a University of Georgia chemist has developed a solution that’s simple and cheap. Assistant Professor Jason Locklin’s antimicrobial treatment —which may either be added during the manufacturing process or sprayed on later — can render everything from linens and clothing to face masks and lab coats to gloves and gowns permanently germ free. The solution remains fully active even after multiple hot-water laundry cycles. Other antimicrobial treatments require repeat applications to remain effective. Locklin’s solution kills a range of bacteria, yeast, and molds that cause disease, stains, and odors, including pathogens common in healthcare facilities: staph, strep, E. coli, pseudomonas, and acetinobacter. It can even put the kibosh on smelly socks.

But hold on. Stinky footwear may actually have some public health advantage. Scientists in Tanzania are field-testing a bait-and-kill method of combating malaria-infected mosquitoes that uses smelly socks as bait. Lab studies found that bad-smelling socks were four times as likely to attract mosquitoes as were live humans. Their idea is to use the socks to lure the pests into traps laced with bug-killing chemicals. – THOMAS K. GROSE

K-12 Engineering

More Respect

In K-12 STEM education, the E (engineering) rarely shares equal billing with science, technology, and math. That soon may change if states embrace sweeping recommendations from the National Research Council. They put engineering on a par with physics and other disciplines as key to meeting humanity’s most pressing challenges while helping citizens make informed everyday decisions. The report will help guide efforts now underway at Achieve, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, to develop common state science standards, expected out by fall 2012.

“Currently, science education in the U.S. lacks a common vision of what students should know and be able to do by the end of high school,” said retired physicist and report panel chair Helen Quinn of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford, Calif. The 282-page “conceptual framework” argues for replacing today’s milewide, content-driven curricula with an integrated approach that focuses on three major dimensions: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and discipline-specific core ideas such as engineering design. One of the blueprint’s big goals is “to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science.”

The NRC, research arm of the National Academies, acknowledges the challenges in meeting this goal, including the limited amount of time most schools devote to learning and doing science. – MARY LORD


Ground Zero Beacon

Still shy of its planned 102 stories, One World Trade Center is nonetheless rising imposingly above lower Manhattan, where aircraft commandeered by al Qaeda terrorists destroyed the twin towers a decade ago. Due to reach a symbolic — and striking — 1,776 feet, with a 408-foot mast-antenna at the top, the new WTC stands adjacent to twin square memorials that fill out the towers’ original footprint. Innovations claimed by architectural firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill include a unique surface of mullion-free insulated glass panels — each more than 13 feet high and 5 feet wide; substantial water savings — captured rainwater will irrigate the surrounding plaza; and an energy-skimping 1.2-megawatt fuel cell plant integrated into the structure’s electrical and mechanical systems.


Calamitous Trend

The state of the world’s oceans? It’s worse than we thought. That’s the conclusion of leading marine scientists who attended an Oxford University workshop earlier this year to review more than 50 of the most recent research papers. Combined effects of pollution, acidification, ocean warming, over-fishing and de-oxygenation place the seven seas on a trajectory leading to a mass extinction “unprecedented in human history,” they say, comparable to the five great mass extinctions of millenia past that each wiped out nearly all life on the planet. One participant warns that at current warming rates, sea levels could rise by more than a meter by the end of this century. Yet as the oceans’ condition worsens, an important tool U.S. scientists use to measure their health — ocean color satellite sensors that monitor the state of phytoplankton, the base of the oceans’ food chain — will soon become too old to function, according to the National Research Council. A new sensor satellite is scheduled to launch this fall, but the study says its capabilities are too limited to handle the work of those now in orbit. The NRC says U.S. researchers will soon have to rely on data from multiple sources, mainly sensors operated by foreign space agencies. – TG


Floating Behemoth

Experts have long known that there are deep pockets of natural gas in many areas below the sea that were either too small or too far away to economically bring to shore by pipeline. But now there’s a solution that’s also an engineering marvel: an FLNG, or floating liquefied natural gas terminal. It’s a giant, seagoing gas liquefaction plant that also houses drilling rigs and storage tanks. The gas is pumped up, cooled to -259.6 degrees Fahrenheit to liquefy it, then loaded into tankers, which take it to market. The volume of natural gas shrinks some 600 times when it is liquefied, making it easier to ship. Shell is now building an FLNG that will be the world’s largest floating, um, contraption (Shell insists it’s not a ship). Once completed in 2017 at the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea, it will be six times as heavy as the largest aircraft carrier, tipping the scales fully laden at 600,000 tons. It will be 1,610 feet long and 244 feet wide. The British/Dutch company spent $500 million and 15 years developing the facility, but it’s estimated it will cost an additional $8 billion to $15 billion to build. Once completed, it will be towed to the Prelude natural gas field some 120 miles off the coast of Australia, where it will be anchored for 25 years. Prelude is estimated to hold 100,000 cubic feet of gas, or five times the annual U.S. consumption of natural gas. – TG

K-12 Education

Book free in Korea

Paper will soon be passé in South Korean classrooms. The country’s Education Ministry has announced plans to take all existing textbook content and make it available digitally via tablets, smartphones, computers, and smart televisions. While e-books are certainly catching on in many, if not most, U.S. school districts, the Korean effort is much more ambitious. Material for all elementary school subjects will be fully digitized by 2014, and all middle- and high-school subjects will go fully digital a year later. The “smart education” plan also envisions digitizing supplementary materials and holding all nationwide academic exams online. The government says it will spend $2.4 billion on digitizing the materials and buying hardware. Officials have yet to name the vendor they’ll use for tablets, but given that consumer electronics giant Samsung is considered a national champion, it seems doubtful that either Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad will end up in South Korean students’ backpacks. – TG


Creative Spark

Ok, you’re about to go into a brainstorming meeting. So you pop on a “thinking cap” that shoots a very low current of electricity into your brain to give you a temporary boost of creativity. That’s a product that Allan Snyder, director of the Center for the Mind at the University of Sydney, has in mind. In a recent study, Snyder tested the device on 60 volunteers who were then given a simple math test. Those who actually got the mild shock treatment were three times as likely to pass the test as those whose brains weren’t juiced up. Meanwhile, a recent DARPA-funded study at the University of New Mexico gave the scalps of subjects playing a military training game mild electric jolts of either two milliamps or one-tenth of a milliamp, and the former group performed twice as well as the latter. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been around since the 19th century, and mostly it’s been researched as a therapy for depression, strokes, or addictions. But some researchers think it may also help improve learning and cognition in healthy brains, according to a recent Nature article. Of course, that raises potential ethical issues: For instance, is it cheating for students to use tDCS to improve exam scores? And there are worries, too, about people who have claimed via the Internet that they tried tDCS experiments at home. Bad idea, one shocked researcher told Nature: “Somebody could get hurt.” – TG

FACTOID: $2.7 trillion = The cumulative impact on U.S. gross domestic product by 2040 from deficiencies in America’s roads, bridges, rail systems and other infrastructure. Source: Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation infrastructure, by the Economic Development Research Group


Goodbye Needles

A patch that contains arrays of hundreds of micron-scale needles that dissolve into the skin is more effective than subcutaneous or intramuscular injections in combating the lethal H1N1 influenza virus, researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University recently reported. Their study found that for up to six weeks, both the patch and traditional injections provided the mice with full protection against the virus. But six months later, the injected mice had a 60 percent decrease in antibody protection and had developed inflammation of the lungs. The mice inoculated with patches still had high levels of protection, and their lungs were clear. Previous research has shown that intramuscular injections are not an efficient means of vaccine delivery, because muscles contain few of the cells needed to activate immune responses, while skin tissue has high concentrations of them. The dual-university team, led by Mark Prausnitz, a chemical and biomolecular engineer at Georgia Tech, was last November awarded a five-year, $10 million National Institutes of Health grant to advance the technology of painless, self-administered microneedle patches for flu vaccines. –TG


Sweet Design

Researchers at Britain’s University of Exeter have developed a 3-D printer that Willy Wonka would die for. Instead of using metals or plastics as its “ink,” Exeter’s uses chocolate. Sometimes called additive manufacturing, 3-D printing technologies work off a three-dimensional CAD design of a product, then construct the item by laying down one very thin layer of material at a time. But this is the first time researchers have used chocolate as a medium. It’s not proved easy: Chocolate doesn’t flow properly unless it is heated and cooled to precise temperatures. The team, led by Liang Hao, a materials scientist in Exeter’s College of Engineering, developed new temperature and heating control systems to make the prototype printer work. Hao envisions the day when consumers can download CAD software, create a design (or modify an existing one), send it to a shop, and pick up their self-designed sweet treat 10 minutes later. And it could all be based on a social-network-style website. Not surprisingly, several chocolate retailers are already expressing interest in the invention. Although chocolate is hard to work with, it’s tastier than plastic. – TG


Many Clicks Make Fast Work

Crowdsourcing, using the power of the Internet to drum up good design ideas from the masses, has been successfully used for products ranging from T-shirts to furniture. Now Arizona’s Local Motors has enlisted the online world to design and build a hefty medevac vehicle for military use. Some 162 contestants sent in designs for a five-person XC2V, or Experimental Crowd-derived Combat Support Vehicle. The contest was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with the goal of speeding up the time it takes to develop military equipment. It worked. Local selected a design and built the XC2V in less than six months. The winning concept came from Victor Garcia, who graduated in 2005 from California’s Art Center College of Design with a B.S. in transportation design. He snagged a $7,500 award. The XC2V was on display in late June at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center when President Obama was there to launch a $500 million advanced manufacturing initiative. – TG


Renewed Growth in Engineering Master’s Degrees

Master’s degree recipients reached a new all-time high of 43,023 in the academic year ending in 2010. This was the third consecutive year of growth after a dip from 2006 to 2008. Master’s enrollment has increased by 25 percent since 2005, reaching 103,335 this past fall. Degree growth is expected to continue for the next several years.

View Printable PDF of Infographic Illustration

*Additional college data is emailed monthly to all ASEE members through ASEE’s CONNECTIONS e-newsletter

Data source: American Society for Engineering Education.

The Right Stuff
By Thomas K. Grose

An engineer-astronaut lends his unique experience to a spaceflight course.

Only about 500 people have had a chance to go into space, so far at least. Fewer have walked and worked on the surface of the international space station for six-plus hours at a stretch. That gives former NASA astronaut James Voss a special perspective in teaching an aerospace class, as he’s been doing for two years now at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences. “It is the only course like it anywhere,” Voss says, “because the focus is on the human side of spaceflight.”

Voss not only draws upon firsthand knowledge, he also covers the history of humans in space, as well as the political, scientific, economic, and social effects of manned spaceflight. The class also gets into the psychology of spaceflight: how astronauts deal with isolation and being so far away from planet Earth.

Hugely popular, Voss’s Introduction to Human Space Flight numbered 128 students in the first year. He found the size a bit unwieldy, so in 2010 it was pared back to just 48. But demand is so great, it may go back to 128 this fall. Aerospace engineering students get first dibs on enrollment, and they pretty much dominate the class, although students from a few other engineering disciplines have managed to squeeze in.

Most of the aerospace engineering students who enroll are keen to work in the space industry.

Voss thinks the class is important in broadening their grasp of what goes into spaceflight: “This is more real-world stuff.” He explains to them the physiological needs of astronauts that engineers need to take into account when designing spacecraft and spacesuits – things that engineers typically take years to understand. For example, astronauts, like scuba divers, are susceptible to both nitrogen narcosis or, more seriously, decompression sickness (the bends) because the low air pressure needed to keep spacesuits flexible can bring the nitrogen out of solution in their blood. So Voss offers examples of alternate suit designs that can alleviate those risks.

Voss joined the U.S. Army in 1972, after earning a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering at Auburn University (while in the Army, he gained his master’s from Colorado in 1974). He later spent three years teaching mechanical engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. While still in the Army, Voss joined NASA in 1984 and became an astronaut three years later, fulfilling an ambition he’d harbored since he was a child reading science fiction.

During his five years as an astronaut, he took five trips into space as flight engineer aboard the Atlantis, Endeavour, and Discovery shuttles, did four space walks and spent 163 days aboard the international space station. Besides serving as the “hands and eyes” of scientists conducting experiments, he gained valuable insight into the U.S.-Russian partnership, watching it evolve from rocky beginnings to the point where the two nations’ astronauts could develop joint emergency procedures.

While he was on the ISS, Voss’s thoughts often returned to his teaching days at West Point, and he realized he wanted to eventually return to academia. “I really like teaching,” he says. “It is important for all of us to give something back.” That’s why in 2003 Voss joined Auburn as an aerospace engineering instructor, teaching human spacecraft design, and as associate dean of engineering for external affairs. During the summers of 2004 and 2005, he returned to Boulder as a visiting professor. After spending a couple of years working for commercial aerospace companies, Voss rejoined Colorado’s aerospace engineering faculty in 2009 as a scholar-in-residence. Besides the human spaceflight class, Voss teaches an introductory aerospace engineering course and a graduate class.

So, are his students in awe of him? Voss chuckles slightly before answering. “I think there is a bit of that,” the former astronaut admits. “One reason that I teach is to draw upon my unique background. It’s an experience that most people don’t have.”

Thomas K. Grose is Prism’s chief correspondent, based in London.

Redesigning a Kitchen

Rice University’s inventive recipe for an abandoned building

In anticipation of a visit to Rice University last spring, I was sent an agenda for my time in Houston. One item in particular caught my eye: meetings with a number of faculty members in a venue identified as the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. I located the building on a campus map, but that was of little help for understanding exactly what a design kitchen was.

In the absence of facts or context, I let my imagination carry me away in the direction of fancy and fantasy. I surmised that a “design kitchen” was a carefully thought-out academic metaphor for a place where fresh design ideas were cooked up, recipes for invention followed, and new concoctions put to the test. There could never be too many cooks in a design kitchen, I reasoned, because the more interdisciplinary participants the better. And if you could not stand the Texas heat, you could always go into the air-conditioned design kitchen.

When I finally arrived at Rice’s design kitchen, I found it to be a wonderfully open and welcoming space. Since my visit occurred near the end of the semester, my guide explained, I would have to excuse the tools, materials, and works in progress that spilled over and out from the otherwise neatly and amply separated tables at which student design teams worked to beat end-of-term deadlines.

A large and well-equipped machine shop stretches the length of one side of the building, easily seen through the wall of windows that separated it and its dust and noise from the workspace proper. Most of a perpendicular wall is lined with conference rooms enclosed by glass, so that it is immediately obvious whether a room is occupied or not. These rooms are available for design teams to confer among themselves and with faculty advisors. They and the design kitchen generally had become so popular across campus that even students outside engineering had begun to flock to it. Thought was being given to expanding into the basement.

As I met with faculty members associated with the university’s design programs, I waited for an opportunity to ask the origin of the term design kitchen. It turns out that the explanation is much simpler than I imagined. The building, which used to be the central food-preparation facility for the campus, had been abandoned when newer facilities became available. The old kitchen became a storage room, but its proximity to the engineering buildings and its large open plan made it attractive for converting into student design-project space. A $2.4 million gift from Kenneth Oshman, a Rice alumnus, and his wife, Barbara, to establish a place where engineering students from all departments could collaborate on design projects made the transformation possible.

The thoughtfully renovated interior space was so successful that the design program grew accordingly. When it was time to give a name to the facility, the design faculty considered some familiar designations: design laboratory, design studio, project space, etc. But when the most apt “design kitchen” was suggested, it was soon embraced as a distinctive way to identify something unique to Rice. Sometimes the best choice for a new name for an existing building with a new use is simply to modify the old name by which it had for so long been known. So Rice’s old Hicks Kitchen became the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen.

Since my visit to Rice I have learned that the Missouri University of Science and Technology has acquired an old bakery building in Rolla for students to use for their design projects, but to the best of my knowledge they are not calling it their Design Bakery.

Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. His most recent book, The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems, is now available in paperback.

Over the Hill at 40

Tech graduates face a career roller coaster.

The ugly reality of engineering — one that no one wants to admit — is that it is an up-or-out profession. If a 40-year-old engineer is doing the same job that can be done by an entry-level worker, he or she is headed toward unemployment. This is the case in the most fast-moving fields of engineering, with the software industry being particularly brutal. Why should a company pay $150,000 per year to an older worker when it can hire a fresh graduate for one third as much? After all, the graduate is likely to have more up-to-date skills and will work harder.

This accounts for a paradox in the technology world: that while Silicon Valley salaries shoot through the roof, tens of thousands of highly experienced engineers are unemployed. If you listen to the heart-wrenching stories of the older engineers, you learn that many have great skills, but no one wants to hire them.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg summed up Silicon Valley’s mentality when he told the New York Times, “Someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good…They are 100 times better.” The exceptional people that Zuckerberg refers to are almost always young.

I don’t agree with Zuckerberg or the Silicon Valley mind-set. Before becoming an academic, I founded two software companies. Over the years, I hired hundreds of engineers. I found older workers to be a little less productive than the young but much more pragmatic and loyal, and better team players. I didn’t pay older workers the same salaries they made at their peak, though. Most often, I paid a worker with 30 years of experience the same wage as someone with 10 (in today’s dollars that would be close to $100,000 per year). These workers were always grateful, stayed with me through the good and bad times, and had the best attitudes.

Is Zuckerberg — and Silicon Valley — wrong in this age discrimination? Lawyers might make different arguments, but my belief is that we can’t force companies to hire workers that they believe are less qualified or less productive, just as we can’t require the NFL to hire any but the best athletes.

These days, some unemployed workers and anti-immigrant groups blame foreign workers for their — and the nation’s — woes. They argue that if we restricted immigrant visas, their problems would go away.  They wouldn’t. Companies would simply do what they used to in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, before we had an influx of skilled immigrant engineers: hire people from other professions and train them for entry-level jobs. Silicon Valley’s productivity would surely fall. And protectionist policies would make American industry less competitive and shrink the overall employment pie.

What then can be done for the engineering profession? To start with, we need to acknowledge the reality. Our colleges need to prepare engineering graduates for the roller-coaster ride they are going to be on. Students need to be taught that experienced engineers are needed mostly in senior design or software architect positions and in management. If they don’t want these jobs, then they need to switch to jobs such as sales or product management, or to become an entrepreneur, as they reach middle age. Engineers need to keep learning and build skills that make them more valuable to their employer as their careers progress; they need to get into positions that can’t be filled by entry-level workers. They also need to prepare for their salaries to fall as they approach their 50s. This means saving money when times are good.

Of course, there are engineers who become so good at what they do that they are indispensable to their employers. They can justify sky-high salaries. There are rock-star software engineers, for example, who can outcode and outthink the new kids on the block. But these are the exceptions. Those we need to worry about are the majority.

Vivek Wadhwa is a scholar specializing in entrepreneurship who is affiliated with Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard Law School, and Emory University. He also advises several start-ups.

Success by Race and Gender

Sharp differences emerge after eight semesters.

While researchers in engineering education have long been interested in understanding who persists in undergraduate engineering and who migrates out, we now know that some measures produce more nuanced information than others. Persistence varies by race and gender, and how we measure persistence matters in understanding this variation.

Generally, researchers who study academic persistence rely on one of two measures. “Six-year graduation” is a strict measure of chronological time to graduation. “Eight- semester persistence” measures either chronological time or actual enrollment. Time to graduation can fluctuate by major, by individual, and by institutional policy. Since both metrics correlate highly when the behavior of all women and all men at an institution is considered, persistence to eight semesters has been assumed to be a good substitute for graduation.

Using a longitudinal and multi-institution data set with a large enough population to disaggregate by gender and race/ethnicity, we found that these two metrics result in different outcomes. While various studies have concluded that women in nearly all racial groups (who matriculate into engineering) persist to the eighth semester at rates comparable to men, we found that it’s not quite so simple. A great deal of variation exists by institution. More important, drawing conclusions based on what women do in the aggregate hides variation by ethnicity.

Making general claims about persistence is tricky because most studies of persistence among engineering majors draw on the behavior of the majority of the population, which is a predominantly white, male population. We argue that an inherent “systematic majority measurement bias” exists when a metric of eight-semester persistence is used alone to understand persistence. This bias causes an underreporting of the variability of both metrics and an over-reporting of the correlation of eight-semester persistence and six-year graduation. As a result, the persistence of underrepresented groups is likely to be misinterpreted.

We also developed a way of displaying both eight-semester persistence and six-year graduation in a graph that yields quantitative information about persistence and qualitative information about the experience of disaggregated racial and ethnic groups. Among whites and Asians, who are not underrepresented, race transcends institution. Among black women in engineering, institution is highly predictive of success. Among black men, persistence to the eighth semester is similar to majority groups, yet we lose a significant number of black male students after the eighth semester — they do not graduate in six years. A nuanced analysis of persistence that disaggregates by race, ethnicity and gender produces such striking findings that they can be used for targeted research and interventions.

Even if institutional variation did not confound the measure of persistence, disaggregation is still imperative because not all populations respond the same way to the same conditions due to a host of both individual and institutional social and cultural factors. Trajectories of persistence are nonlinear, gendered, and racialized. We conclude that a six-year graduation metric is more robust than an eight-semester metric and that multiple measures may be needed to describe outcomes in diverse populations. Finally, future research will do well to explore the complex relationship between institutional culture and policies as they relate to persistence, particularly among underrepresented groups.

Michelle M. Camacho is associate professor in the Sociology Department and affiliate faculty in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of San Diego. Matthew W. Ohland is associate professor in Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education. Susan M. Lord is professor and coordinator of electrical engineering at the University of San Diego. This is adapted from “Race, Gender, and Measures of Success in Engineering Education,” in the April 2011 Journal of Engineering Education, written with co-authors Catherine E. Brawner, president of Research Triangle Educational Consultants, Russell A. Long, director of project assessment in Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education, Richard A. Layton, director of the Center for the Practice and Scholarship of Education and associate professor of mechanical engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and Mara H. Wasburn, recently deceased, who was professor of organizational leadership in Purdue University’s college of technology.

Try, Try Again

Stories of people whose determination made a difference

ADAPT: Why Success Always Starts With Failure
by Tim Harford. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. 309 pps.

The idea that failure and adaptation can lead to success is nothing new for engineers, most of whom continuously experiment in their studies and work. Economic journalist Tim Harford celebrates this approach, stressing its importance for society, industry, and individuals. Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failureis animated with stories of people who have made a difference through their dogged pursuits. They include Reginald Mitchell, designer of the WWII Spitfire fighter plane; engineer Dave Myers, who applied the Gore-Tex polymer for use on guitar strings; and, of course, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who set a historic example of persistence and now encourage their Google employees to spend as much as 20 percent of the work week exploring possible future projects.

Yet while trial and error may seem both intuitive and logical, it “runs counter to our instincts,” says Harford. Most people, fearing the possibility of failure, stick to the safety of the status quo, and by doing so limit the possibilities of what can be achieved. Harford’s book underscores just why experimentation is so important and how it might help tackle such pressing issues as poverty, climate change, and economic instability.

It is a Soviet, Peter Palchinsky, who serves as a guiding model in Adapt, someone who “[refused] to shut up when he saw a problem.” Eager to contribute to the technological development of Stalin’s Soviet Union, this early 20th-century engineer repeatedly warned against massive, overly ambitious projects driven by political concerns. For his efforts, Palchinsky was ignored, exiled, and eventually executed. Here, he is resurrected by Harford and hailed for his determination to tackle complex problems with attention to the human and local scale. The three “Palchinsky Principles” that resound throughout the pages of this text are, first, to seek out new ideas and approaches – “variation”; second, to do so on a survivable scale – “selection”; and third, to solicit feedback and learn from mistakes – “adaptation.”

These principles are applied to a variety of diverse issues. Harford considers, for example, how randomized, small-scale experiments could strengthen overseas development programs, separating failures from more promising endeavors. Elsewhere, addressing the question of climate change, he argues that a carbon tax could quickly reveal the true energy costs of products and be far more effective than reusing plastic bags or buying locally. Woven throughout the narrative are engaging case studies of committed adapters, such as Col. (now Brig. Gen.) H.R. McMaster, whose on-the-ground experiments in Iraq sought ways to win over the local population. McMaster often bucked official policy and antagonized superior officers, but his techniques ultimately proved successful, significantly lowering insurgent attacks. Choreographer Twyla Tharp is noted for her ability to put aside ego and self-pity, transforming an initial badly panned musical into an award-winning Broadway hit, Movin’ Out. For Harford, both McMaster and Tharp are exemplars of discerning variation, selection, and adaptation.

As an economic columnist for the London Financial Times, Harford is particularly intrigued by the complexity of financial systems, drawing a compelling comparison between fiscal meltdowns and industrial catastrophes. Banks and oil rigs or nuclear reactors represent highly involved systems whose possible malfunction accommodates very little margin for “safe failure.” We need to admit the inevitability of accidents, Harford argues, and then construct multiple lines of defense, as well as loosening the interdependency within such systems. Doing so would help prevent a single failure from compounding into the kinds of cataclysms we witnessed in the 2007 AIG collapse and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Throughout the wide-ranging examinations of this book, Harford highlights the value of experimentation and the necessity of being willing to try, try again – with discernment, care, and a strong commitment to fail and then start again. Engineering educators should find within these pages instructive anecdotes to inspire their students – as well as themselves.

Robin Tatu is a contributing editor of Prism.



Let’s Become the Voice of Engineering Education

Faculty and policymakers should be asking, “What does ASEE think?”

By Don P. Giddens

ASEE is a complex organization with many stakeholders, all pursuing our common objective of educating the very best engineers and engineering technologists in the world. Over the years, the scope of our activities has grown and diversified in a number of ways:

  • Our Society is at the forefront of developing and disseminating innovations in how people learn engineering and engineering technology, as evidenced by the success of the Journal of Engineering EducationPrism, and other publications.
  • We are deeply committed to research, not only to contribute to the growth of knowledge and its application but also to infuse curricula with the latest knowledge.
  • We are engaged in public policies affecting education, research, innovation, and competitiveness.
  • Geographically, we are expanding our interest beyond the United States, since engineering today is practiced in a global economy and our students (and faculty) must be prepared for this new reality.
  • ASEE has entered robustly into the area of STEM education, reaching out to the K-12 population and addressing diversity and pipeline issues.
  • Aware that innovation is essential to economic well-being, we seek to enhance relationships between engineering and industry and understand the changing needs of the corporate world.
  • ASEE has increasingly participated in projects related to engineering education that also generate income, such as managing fellowships for federal agencies.

As a dean, I became painfully aware of the negative impact of the recent recession on faculty workloads and, in turn, on the quality of education. Still, some in our national leadership seem to recognize that engineering will be essential to economic recovery, innovation, and economic health going forward. Let’s hope that recent statements emphasizing STEM education, energy, and manufacturing initiatives will not turn out to be empty words.

If the glass is indeed half-full, ASEE is well-positioned to benefit, accelerating the momentum generated by past leadership. While the last year has been busy and challenging, society finances have been stabilized, ASEE headquarters has been reorganized to be more effective, and our corporate sponsors have stayed the course. Volunteer leaders on the Board of Directors and, in the councils, zones, and divisions are exceptionally strong. And our membership remains active and engaged, as evidenced by the record attendance at the 2011 Annual Meeting.

Our new executive director, Norman Fortenberry, brings an energy level that will set a high bar for us all. He and a great staff will be busy this year setting and reaching new operational goals, including increasing membership, strengthening the financial base, and improving services.

There are a few strategic things I would like to work on as ASEE president. If I could sum up a long-range objective, it might be with the phrase “What does ASEE think?” By this, I mean that I’d like to see our organization move into such a strong and well-recognized position in areas related to engineering education that when issues and opportunities arise, people and other organizations ask, “What does ASEE think?”

What are some examples?

We do not do well in attracting members among faculty at research-intensive universities. Understandably, many faculty place the highest priority on conferences in their technical field, not on educational conferences. Are there ways that ASEE can add value to the R-1 university faculty career path, such as tutorial programs on grant-writing, on balancing teaching, research and service at early career stages, and on time management? Do young faculty ask, “What does ASEE think?” when they ponder their career paths?

Our interactions with the federal government could be expanded and strengthened in selected areas. ASEE has targeted projects supported by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and other agencies that are largely initiated by our staff. When the National Academy of Engineering, NSF, the Department of Education, and other influential agencies have questions or issues that relate to engineering education, do they ask, “What does ASEE think?”

When professional societies, such as IEEE, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers, develop policies for their membership or for participation in accreditation discussions, do they ask, “What does ASEE think?”

There are a number of strategies that we can employ, virtually all of which require being proactive rather than reactive.

One is to ensure that our communications and marketing clearly reflect the values we hold. If you peruse various ASEE-related websites, do you see images that attractively reflect engineering and engineers? Do you see “people” and “things” that relate to engineering and technology, or just words? Is it easy to tell from all our websites that we are committed to diversity? Some of our publications convey messages very well, but I’d like to begin a review of all our communications materials with the idea of projecting an image that emphasizes our core values.

Another strategy is to leverage our assets better. We have strong councils, for example, and there are a number of collaborative programs between councils. I hope to be able to encourage many more collaborative programs and projects that take advantage of our strengths across the Society, targeted at strategic objectives, such as K-14, diversity, and public policy. We all believe in multidisciplinary principles, and we can perhaps be more purposeful in practicing them.

Financially, we should reach beyond cultivating and servicing sponsors and consider what philanthropic opportunities could be pursued more aggressively.

I’m very optimistic as I begin what I know will be a very short and enjoyable year as ASEE president. Together we can truly accomplish much. As we do so, we must remember that the people we most affect as engineering and engineering technology educators are our students, and we must take pleasure in contributing to their successes.

Thank you all for your commitment to ASEE. I look forward to working for you and with you in the coming year.

Don P. Giddens is president of ASEE.


Teaching award winner makes the most of multiple platforms.

Despite 24 years of teaching, Autar Kaw still gets “butterflies” of excitement on the first day of class. “Something about teaching just makes me very happy,” says the University of South Florida mechanical engineering professor. And it shows. Department Chairman Rajiv Dubey recalls watching with envy as Kaw riveted the attention of 50-plus students, lacing a technical lecture with anecdotes and relevant jokes and inviting responses via clickers: “His enthusiasm and energy could be felt throughout the whole hour.”

Yet classroom technique is just one of the ways Kaw, 51, has of “profoundly influencing students,” words used by ASEE in giving him the 2011 National Outstanding Teaching Award. Since 2002, he has led students and partners at other colleges in developing online platforms to teach numerical methods to an expanding audience of YouTube viewers (1 million views as of July) and distance learners in the United States, Canada, South America, and Asia.

Offering lessons for seven different engineering majors using four math programs, including MATLAB™, Kaw’s Holistic Numerical Methods ( stress clarity, conciseness, and real-world examples. A description of a flawed fulcrum assembly procedure on a Miami Beach, Fla.-area bridge precedes an explanation of the calculations needed to diagnose and correct the error. Another problem is introduced with, “A mom and pop shop wants to find the number of computers they would have to sell if they want to break even.” The mix of offerings includes a rap video. Designed for the Web, and not mere adaptations from the classroom, the units conclude with multiple choice assessments.

Kaw saw technology’s educational potential in the early 1990s, when he proposed distributing courses via floppy disks, but couldn’t get funding until the first of four National Science Foundation grants in 2001 connected him to an online world hungry to learn. Recognition followed quickly with a 2004 curriculum innovation award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Besides numerical methods, he has developed interactive software for courses in mechanics of composite materials, now used at 51 universities, and computational methods.

Playing to the “cloud” – and crowded classes – hasn’t diminished Kaw’s concern for individual students, as noted in USF exit interviews. Having immigrated from India in part because he thought the United States offered greater social justice, Kaw is attuned to the needs of students who need to work 20 or more hours a week to make ends meet. He insists on counseling any student who scores below 70 on a test, and has organized a textbook exchange on Facebook to cut student costs.

Kaw’s next project attempts to fuse individual needs with the fruits of research comparing the effectiveness of online and classroom learning. The idea is to find out whether a particular student is best served in a classroom or online course, and then to develop individualized plans to ensure success within the chosen setting. Stating his teaching philosophy, Kaw says, “I believe that it is important to mix teaching styles to reach, encourage, and challenge our diverse student population.”


ASEE plans to run a full-scale Web-based survey of engineering student retention and time to graduation. These data do not currently exist. The survey will be conducted in the spring of 2012, with results to be published later in the year. Michael Gibbons, the Society’s director of data collection and analysis, is the principal investigator. He will be seeking input from engineering deans to make sure the results are useful to educators. A pilot study was conducted in 2010 after ASEE worked with more than 40 institutions and the Engineering Deans Council to develop a data-collection template and guidelines.

ASEE plans to produce charts and tables that include demographic breakdowns and institutional characteristics. Participants will be able to benchmark their schools in relation to others by using a private Web-based tool. The project is funded by a $397,000 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant.


The 118th Annual ASEE Conference & Exposition, held June 26 to 29 in Vancouver, BC, was one of the most successful in memory, drawing both record attendance and the highest-ever number of paper submissions. Among sessions that riveted members’ attention was the main plenary, at which keynoter Karl A. Smith, of Purdue University, led a discussion on teaching techniques with an international panel of educators, each of whom shared new insights.

The conference was preceded by ASEE’s eighth annual K-12 workshop on engineering education. Presented by Dassault Systèmes, it drew some 200 educators for lively hands-on instruction.

Conference highlights included a festive picnic, with the city’s harbor and surrounding mountains providing a dramatic backdrop, the ASEE Global Pavilion, showcasing the expanding international initiatives of the Society’s corporate partners, and the awards banquet. Details of the awards appear in the following pages. A nightly newsletter, “Conference Connection”, offered a guide to important events and captured each day’s important moments in pictures, such as the ones above. Find more photos at


ASEE Fellows Named

The following members received the Fellow grade of membership in recognition of outstanding contributions to engineering or engineering technology education. This distinction was conferred by ASEE’s Board of Directors at the awards banquet held at the ASEE annual conference in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Mary E. Besterfield-Sacre
Associate Professor, Industrial Engineering Department
University of Pittsburgh

Susan M. Blanchard
Founding Director and Professor of Bioengineering, U. A. Whitaker School of Engineering
Florida Gulf Coast University

Nancy L. Denton
Professor, Mechanical Engineering Technology Department
Purdue University

Kenneth F. Galloway
Dean, School of Engineering
Vanderbilt University

Ray M. Haynes
Director, STEM Integration
DaVinci Charter High Schools

Leah H. Jamieson
John A. Edwardson Dean, College of Engineering
Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and
Professor of Engineering Education
Purdue University

Linda Krute
Director of Distance Education Programs, College of Engineering
North Carolina State University

Larry G. Richards
Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department
University of Virginia

Carol A. Richardson
Professor Emerita, College of Applied Science and Technology
Rochester Institute of Technology

Ronald H. Rockland
Professor and Chair, Department of Engineering Technology
New Jersey Institute of Technology

Jacquelyn Sullivan
Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence, College of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Colorado, Boulder

Krishna Vedula
Special Assistant to the Provost for International Partnerships
Professor and Dean Emeritus, College of Engineering
University of Massachusetts, Lowell


Benjamin Garver Lamme Award

Jean-Lou Chameau, president and professor of civil engineering, environmental science and engineering, and mechanical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, received the Benjamin Garver Lamme Award for his sustained and exemplary leadership in developing and promoting innovative and engaging environments for engineering education. His contributions reflect his vision for creating discovery-based and interdisciplinary contexts for engineering education and research, as well as his ability to remove barriers to success in engineering degree programs and careers in academia. He has demonstrated his leadership skills at highly regarded engineering programs, large and small, where he routinely engaged a diverse talent base to find solutions for the complex challenges facing those institutions.

As the eighth president of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Chameau has led one of the world’s pre-eminent centers of instruction and research in engineering and science since September 2006. Caltech is recognized for the high caliber of its students and its outstanding faculty, including several Nobel laureates. Caltech also operates several renowned off-campus facilities, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the W. M. Keck Observatory, and the Palomar Observatory.

Chameau is committed to fostering the institute’s unique values, as well as promoting a multidisciplinary approach to research and education. He encourages the development of programs with an impact on society, in fields such as energy, medical science, and the environment. He also places great emphasis on improving students’ educational experiences, increasing the diversity of the community, and advancing entrepreneurial and international opportunities for faculty and students. He is a strong proponent of the institute’s taking a leadership role in sustainability. Chameau is also committed to diversifying Caltech’s resources and making the institute as effective in administration as it is innovative in science.

Chameau received his graduate education in civil engineering at Stanford University. In 1980, he joined the civil engineering faculty at Purdue University, where he ultimately became head of the geotechnical engineering program. Moving to Georgia Tech in 1991, he was named director of the school of civil and environmental engineering. He was president of Golder Associates Inc., an international geotechnical consulting company, from 1994 to 1995, after which he returned to Georgia Tech as Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and vice provost for research. He was named dean of its college of engineering, the largest in the country, in 1997, and became provost in 2001.

Chameau currently serves on the boards of directors of MTS Systems Corp., Internet2, the Academic Research Council of Singapore, the Council on Competitiveness, the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, and Safran. He also serves on the Advisory Committee of InterWest Partners. His technical interests include sustainable technology, environmental geotechnology, fuzzy sets, soil dynamics, earthquake engineering, and liquefaction of soils. He is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, ASCE’s Arthur Casagrande Award, the Rodney D. Chipp Memorial Award from the Society of Women Engineers, and the Prix Nessim Habif from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the French Académie des Technologies.

The Benjamin Garver Lamme Award, established in 1928, recognizes excellence in teaching, contributions to research and technical literature, and achievements that advance the profession of engineering college administration.


Donald E. Marlowe Award

Richard K. Miller, president of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, received the Donald E. Marlowe Award for pioneering leadership of new models of engineering education that respond to changing societal need and student motivations, particularly as the first president of an innovative new engineering college.

Miller became Olin College’s president as well as its first employee in 1999. He also holds an appointment as professor of mechanical engineering.  He served as dean of the college of engineering at the University of Iowa from 1992-1999, and spent the previous 17 years on the engineering faculties of the University of Southern California (where he was associate dean for academic affairs) and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Miller’s research interests are in structural dynamics and nonlinear mechanics with application to earthquake engineering and spacecraft structural design. He is author or co-author of about 100 reviewed journal articles and other technical publications. He has been a consultant on spacecraft structural design to several aerospace companies, and to NASA. He has served as chair of the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Advisory Committee and served on several advisory committees for the National Academy of Engineering, Harvard University, and other institutions. In addition, he has served as a short-term consultant to the World Bank on the establishment of new academic institutions. Miller has won five teaching awards at two universities and received the Legacy award from the college of engineering at the University of Iowa for making “exceptional historical contributions toward advancing the College in teaching, research, or service.” He is a member of the Board of Directors of Stanley Consultants Inc. and serves on the Boards of Trustees of Babson and Olin Colleges. A member of ASEE, he is also a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, and Sigma Xi. Miller earned his B.S. degree in aerospace engineering in 1971 from the University of California, Davis, where he received the 2002 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award. In 1972, he earned his M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from MIT, and in 1976 he earned his Ph.D. in applied mechanics from Caltech.

The Donald E. Marlowe Award for distinguished education administration recognizes an individual administrator who has made significant ongoing contributions to education for engineering and engineering technology by unusually effective national leadership and example beyond accepted tradition. Recipients of this award have demonstrated an understanding and responsiveness to societal and technological change through creative and dedicated administrative skill and leadership.


Frederick J. Berger Award

Carol Q. Richardson, professor emerita at the College of Applied Science and Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), received the Frederick J. Berger Award for her 30 years of leadership in engineering technology. One of a handful of women leaders in the field, she has made dramatic improvements in curricula and laboratories, winning numerous grants in laboratory development. Over the years, she took a very active role in administration, serving as chair, vice dean, and dean. She has served in many roles in many professional societies, including ASEE in numerous ways.

At RIT, Richardson designed and proposed the Bachelor of Science program in Telecommunications Engineering Technology, which was the first ABET-accredited program of its kind in 1993. In 2000, she led the team that developed the Master of Science degree in Telecommunication Engineering Technology. In 1994, she became chair of the department of electrical, computer, and telecommunications engineering technology and was appointed vice dean of the college of applied science and technology and Paul A. Miller Professor in 2005. She served as interim dean of the college of applied science and technology from 2006 to 2008 and returned to teaching in 2009. She had a 10-year career as a design engineer at Collins Radio Co. and General Electric before joining RIT.

Richardson has been active in professional engineering organizations throughout her career at RIT. She served on the ASEE Executive Committee and Board of Directors as vice president, Professional Interest Councils. She is a past chair of the ASEE Engineering Technology Division; past program chair for the ASEE Women in Engineering Division; past chair of the executive committee of the Conference on Industry and Education Collaboration; a former director of both the Engineering Technology Leadership Institute and Engineering Technology Council; and is currently an ABET commissioner. She will be chair of the Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET next year. She has also been active in Rochester, N.Y.-area professional engineering and community organizations.

External funding has helped Richardson advance many of her major initiatives. She received grants from the National Science Foundation, Hewlett Packard Foundation, REDCOM Laboratories Inc., and the International Communication Association to fund development of the laboratory for the telecommunications programs. Richardson also received an NSF grant to study equity issues in technical programs, an issue she has advanced through institute service and professional associations. She was the principal investigator of a successful Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Scholarships program awarded by NSF in the fall of 2004, which provided scholarships for transfer students in engineering technology and engineering programs at RIT. She has regularly presented papers on these activities at ASEE conferences since 1992.

Richardson has a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Wyoming and a M.S. degree in electrical engineering from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.

The Frederick J. Berger Award recognizes and encourages excellence in engineering technology education. It is presented to both an individual and a school or department for demonstrating outstanding leadership in curriculum, techniques, or administration in engineering technology education.


Chester F. Carlson Award

M. Granger Morgan, Lord Chair Professor in Engineering, professor and department chair of Engineering and Public Policy, and University Professor, Carnegie Mellon University, received the Chester F. Carlson Award for his innovation in engineering education through the design, implementation, and nurturing of the department of engineering and public policy. EPP, the first department of its kind in the nation, produces graduate and undergraduate engineers who are competent and comfortable working at the boundary of engineering and society on real-world complex problems through interdisciplinary and systematic methodologies. Morgan is particularly recognized for the conception, implementation, and leadership of the graduate program and faculty for 33 years.

Besides EPP, Morgan holds academic appointments in the department of electrical and computer engineering and in the H. John Heinz III college. His research addresses problems in science, technology, and public policy with a particular focus on energy, environmental systems, climate change, and risk analysis. Much of his work has involved the development and demonstration of methods to characterize and treat uncertainty in quantitative policy analysis.

At CMU, Morgan directs the National Science Foundation’s Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making and codirects, with Lester Lave, the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center. He serves as chair of the Scientific and Technical Council for the International Risk Governance Council. In the recent past, he served as chair of the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and as chair of the Advisory Council of the Electric Power Research Institute.

Morgan is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the Society for Risk Analysis. He holds a B.A. from Harvard College (1963) where he concentrated in physics, an M.S. in astronomy and space science from Cornell University (1965), and a Ph.D. from the department of applied physics and information sciences at the University of California at San Diego (1969).

The Chester F. Carlson Award, sponsored by the Xerox Corp., recognizes an individual innovator in engineering education, who, by motivation and ability to extend beyond the accepted tradition, has made a significant contribution to the profession.


Isadore T. Davis Award

Dharmaraj Veeramani, Robert Ratner Chair Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, received the Isadore T. Davis Award for his leadership in helping industry adapt to new information technologies – such as computer-integrated manufacturing, electronic commerce, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) – and for serving as a role model, source of inspiration, and resource for several generations of engineering students seeking greater exposure to real-world problems.

Veeramani holds joint appointments in the college of engineering and the school of business. Over the past 19 years, he has been devoted to the development and leadership of substantial and novel collaborative partnerships between the university and Wisconsin businesses.These university-industry partnerships have made a profound and lasting impact on engineering education, research and technology transfer, and industry outreach. Veeramani’s accomplishments are multifaceted. He is internationally recognized in his roles as an educator and researcher and as founder-director of one of the world’s leading consortia.

Through his expertise in industrial engineering, information technology, and operations management, and his commitment to university-industry collaboration, Veeramani has developed and successfully disseminated leading-edge strategies and practices for computer-integrated manufacturing and e-business. In the mid-’90s, just as the earliest online retail dot-com businesses came into existence, Veeramani recognized the game-changing implications of e-business technologies and practices. His efforts in 1998 led to the creation of the UW E-Business Consortium. This initiative is Wisconsin’s leading university-industry partnership (with more than 70 world-class companies), helping industry gain competitive advantage through collaborative learning of e-business strategies and best practices. In 2002, Veeramani formed the campuswide UW E-Business Institute focusing on research and industrywide outreach to catalyze innovation and economic growth through university-industry collaboration. The impact of the activities conducted under his direction in the UW E-Business Consortium and UW E-Business Institute has been significant and far reaching across the state.

Veeramani was awarded the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award (1997) and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Ralph E. Cross Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award (1997). In 1998, he was chosen by University of Wisconsin-Madison students to be the first recipient of the Alpha Pi Mu (Industrial Engineering Honor Society) Outstanding Undergraduate Industrial Engineering Professor Award. His efforts and contributions to foster university-industry collaboration have also been recognized by former Wisconsin Governors Tommy Thompson, Scott McCallum, and Jim Doyle.

The Isadore T. Davis Award celebrates the spirit and leadership of individuals who make a mark in the collaborative efforts of engineering or engineering technology education with industry toward the improvement of partnerships or collaborations. The award promotes collaborations and partnerships between engineering or engineering technology education and industry to improve learning, scholarship, and engagement practices within the engineering education community. The award was jointly established and endowed by ASEE’s Corporate Member Council, Engineering Deans Council, Engineering Technology Council, Engineering Research Council, and Division of College-Industry Partnerships.


DuPont Minorities in Engineering Award

Richard A. Tapia, University Professor and Maxfield and Oshman Professor in Engineering at Rice University, received the DuPont Minorities in Engineering Award for his national leadership in increasing women and underrepresented minority (URM) participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). His exemplary program for graduate recruiting and retention of URMs in STEM has not only tripled the number of URM Ph.D.s in these areas at Rice University but has also been successfully replicated at other universities. On a national level, he has successfully promoted diversity in STEM through numerous leadership positions on advisory boards and committees, as well as through outreach. Due to his efforts, Rice University has received national recognition for its educational outreach programs, and the Rice Computational and Applied Mathematics Department has become a national leader in producing women and underrepresented minority Ph.D.’s in the mathematical sciences.

Tapia was born in Los Angeles to parents who emigrated from Mexico when they were children, seeking educational opportunities. He was the first in his family to attend college, earning his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles. Tapia was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (1992) for his seminal work in interior point methods. He was the first recipient of the A. Nico Habermann Award from the Computing Research Association (1994) for outstanding contributions in aiding members of underrepresented groups within the computing community. He received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Bill Clinton (1996). He was also appointed by President Clinton to the National Science Board, the governing body of the National Science Foundation (1996). Tapia is a recipient of the Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1997). A lecture series honoring Tapia and African-American mathematician David Blackwell, was established at Cornell University (2000). The Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing honors his many contributions to diversity (2001). He received the Hispanic Engineer of the Year Award from Hispanic Engineer Magazine (1996) and was inducted into the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference Hall of Fame (1997). Hispanic Engineer & Informational Technology Magazine also selected him as one of the 50 most important Hispanics in Technology and Business for 2004. That same year, Tapia was inducted into the Texas Science Hall of Fame.

Tapia has been named one of the 20 most influential leaders in minority math education by the National Research Council. He is listed as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the United States by Hispanic Business magazine (2008). He has been named “Professor of the Year” by the Association of Hispanic School Administrators, Houston Independent School District, Houston, Texas. In 2005, Tapia was elected to the Board of Directors for TAMEST, comprising the Texas members of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. In 2009, he received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Math and Science.

The DuPont Minorities in Engineering Award honors an engineering educator for exceptional achievement in increasing participation and retention of minorities and women in engineering. Endowed by the DuPont Co., this award is intended to recognize the importance of student diversity by ethnicity and gender in science, engineering, and technology.


Clement J. Freund Award

Helen C. Oloroso, assistant dean and director of the Walter P. Murphy Cooperative Education Program in the McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University, is recognized by the Clement J. Freund Award for successfully directing cooperative education programs at four higher education institutions. Over her career, she was elected as head of both national cooperative education organizations and currently serves as a member of the governing boards of both the National Commission for Cooperative Education and the World Association for Cooperative Education.

Oloroso’s career in the field of cooperative education has spanned the past 30 years and four distinctly different institutions of higher education. She joined the field in late 1980 as a coordinator of a newly developed co-op program at Harry S Truman College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. By 1981, she became the director, leading that program for the next nine years. In 1990, she joined the associate vice chancellor’s team at the University of Illinois at Chicago, overseeing the development and management of co-op programs in engineering, business, applied health, and arts and sciences. In 1993, Oloroso moved from the University of Illinois at Chicago to Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) to become director of the IIT Career Development Center.

In her current capacity, she serves as director of the McCormick Office of Career Development and as an assistant dean in Northwestern University’s engineering school. At the time she joined Northwestern as director of the co-op program in 2001, the program served an average of 325 students per year. Once a mandatory program, it has been one of the signature features of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science since the program’s founding in 1939. Under her leadership, the Walter P. Murphy Cooperative Engineering Education Program has been augmented by the Engineering Internship Program, Engineering Projects in Service Learning, and Engineering Research Experience. There are now over 800 students participating in work-integrated learning programs at McCormick.

Oloroso’s professional activities have included leadership positions in the Illinois Association for Cooperative Education and Internships, the Midwest Cooperative Education and Internship Association (MCEIA), the U.S. Cooperative Education and Internship Association (CEIA), the World Association for Cooperative Education, and the ASEE Cooperative and Experiential Education Division. She has chaired conferences and committees, including the CEIA Legislative Affairs committee during the 1992 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965, presenting testimony both in the field and in the U.S. Senate. She has also been a reader of federal grants for the U.S. Department of Education.

Oloroso holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Loyola University and a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Chicago. Past awards include the Julia Beveridge Award (IIT, 1999), the Dean Herman Schneider Award (CEIA, 2003), and the E. Sam Sovilla Educator of the Year Award (MCEIA, 2007).

The Clement J. Freund Award honors an individual in business, industry, government, or education who has made a significant positive impact on cooperative education programs in engineering and engineering technology.


Sharon A. Keillor Award for Women in Engineering Education

Sheryl Sorby, a professor in the Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Department at Michigan Technological University, is recognized by the Sharon Keillor Award as an innovator in undergraduate engineering education. Over two decades, she has conducted significant research in gender differences in 3-D spatial skills, led the design and implementation of a first-year engineering program, and laid groundwork for a new Service Systems Engineering program at Michigan Tech. She has been PI/co-PI for nearly $7 million in educational funding, primarily from the National Science Foundation. She continues to work for engineering education reform, both in leading efforts in her department to revamp the curriculum to prepare students for the grand challenges of the coming century and in contributing to national efforts.

Besides her professorship, Sorby is director of the Engineering Education and Innovation Research Group at Michigan Tech. She has a B.S. in Civil Engineering, an M.S. in Engineering Mechanics, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, all from Michigan Tech. Upon completion of her Ph.D. in 1991, she was appointed assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering, the only woman faculty member in the department at the time. She obtained tenure in 1996 and was promoted to full professor in 2002, based primarily on her achievements in engineering education research. Her research has been focused on improving the success of engineering students by helping them improve their 3-D spatial visualization skills. To date, she has received more than $1 million in funding from the National Science Foundation for her work in developing 3-D spatial skills for women engineering students and also for students, primarily girls, at the middle school level. Her research in the area of spatial skills development was recognized by WEPAN through the Betty Vetter Award for research on women in engineering in 2004.

In addition to her work in developing 3-D spatial skills, Sorby has contributed to improving engineering education in various other ways. She was co-principal investigator on a grant from NSF that brought first-year engineering to Michigan Tech. Through this grant, the college also established its award-winning Enterprise program, where students learn firsthand about professional life and entrepreneurship. She was PI on a grant that established the Master of Science in Applied Science Education, whereby in-service math and science teachers earn a graduate degree through the completion of a 12-credit engineering core. She was also PI on a grant to establish a new program in Service Systems Engineering at Michigan Tech. She served as department chair of engineering fundamentals and associate dean of engineering at Michigan Tech. For nearly three years, Sorby served as a program officer in the Division of Undergraduate Education at NSF. Through her service at NSF, she gained a national perspective on innovation in engineering education. She has been active in ASEE since 1992 and served as chair of the engineering design graphics division in 2002-03. She currently serves as an associate editor of Advances in Engineering Education, ASEE’s online journal.

The Sharon A. Keillor Award for Women in Engineering Education recognizes and honors outstanding women engineering educators.


James H. McGraw Award

Thomas M. Hall, who recently retired as professor and head of the department of engineering technology at Northwestern State University (NSU) of Louisiana, received the James H. McGraw Award for his exemplary 15-year teaching and administrative career. He also recently retired from the United States Army following a 26-year career that saw him rise to the rank of colonel and provided excellent preparation for his engineering technology education career. He has been a tireless leader, teacher, and scholar on his campus, with industry, and with the Louisiana Department of Education. He has built on his accomplishments in Louisiana to become a national leader in engineering technology education, working through ASEE, ABET, and IEEE.

Hall began teaching electronics engineering technology at NSU in 1995. As department head, he was responsible for the initial accreditation of the Electronics Engineering Technology program and the creation of Louisiana’s first Industrial Engineering Technology program. In 2008, he created a concentration in Biomedical Engineering Technology and started the effort to institute Project Lead the Way (PLTW) in Louisiana. In one year, PLTW grew from one active program in the state to 29 middle school and high school programs located in 20 parishes. In addition, NSU was designated the PLTW Affiliate University for Louisiana.

Within ASEE, Hall served on the ASEE Board of Directors as vice president for institutional councils. He was director and chair of the ASEE Engineering Technology Council; subscriptions editor, production editor, and financial editor of the Journal of Engineering Technology; and program chair of the ASEE Engineering Technology Division for the Conference for Industry and Education Collaboration. He served as a member of the Executive Board of the national honor society of Tau Alpha Pi.

He is a senior member of IEEE, chaired the IEEE Committee on Technology Accreditation Activities, and is a program evaluator for ABET. In 2011, he was selected by IEEE to serve on the Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET. As chair of the National Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology Department Heads Association, he started an effort that has created a nationally normed assessment for EET programs.

Hall earned a B.S. in Engineering from the United States Military Academy (1969). He received an M.B.A. from the University of Utah (1977), where he was named a Dean’s Scholar (top 2%) and was inducted into the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and Beta Gamma Sigma, the national business honor society. Subsequently, he earned an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering (1980) and the Engineer degree (1981) from Stanford University. He completed a Doctor of Education degree at NSU (1999) and was awarded the NSU Excellence in Teaching Award (2003).

The James H. McGraw Award is sponsored by the ASEE Engineering Technology Council and is presented for outstanding contributions to engineering technology education. Established in 1950, the award is funded by the Glencoe Division of MacMillan/McGraw-Hill.


Fred Merryfield Design Award

Timothy W. Simpson, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Pennsylvania State University, received the Fred Merryfield Design Award for his extraordinary leadership in engineering design. As director of the Learning Factory, he created the nation’s largest college-wide, industry-sponsored senior capstone design program. He led two multiuniversity initiatives to cyberenable product dissection activities to help more than 7,500 students at nine universities gain insight into engineering design. His National Science Foundation Design Workshops Series has engaged over 300 faculty and designers in a national dialogue on interdisciplinary design education, and his product family and platform design research has influenced over 300 practitioners at more than 30 international companies.

Simpson holds affiliate appointments in engineering design and the college of information sciences and technology. As head of the Learning Factory, he coordinates over 120 industry-sponsored senior capstone design projects each year for nearly 600 students in 10 different engineering departments. He teaches courses on product family design, concurrent engineering, mechanical systems design, and product dissection, and also serves as director of the product realization minor in the College of Engineering. His research interests include product family and product platform design, mass customization, multidisciplinary design optimization, and trade space exploration. He has coauthored more than 200 peer-reviewed journal and conference publications to date, and is lead editor of the book Product Platform and Product Family Design: Methods and Applications. He has received over $13 million in funding to support his research from the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, Department of Energy, and Federal Transit Administration, among others, and he has collaborated on projects with a variety of companies, including Black & Decker, Boeing, Bosch, Electrolux, Flowserve, GE Transportation, General Motors, Innovation Factory, LG Electronics, United Technologies Research Center, and Whirlpool.

He is a recipient of the NSF Career Award, the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award, and the Outstanding Service Award from the AIAA Multidisciplinary Design Optimization (MDO) Technical Committee. He has also received the President’s Award for Excellence in Academic Integration at Penn State, and is the only faculty member in the college of engineering to have won the Penn State Engineering Society’s Premier and Outstanding Research and Teaching Awards. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). He has served on the ASME Design Automation Executive Committee, and is the past chair of the AIAA MDO Technical Committee. He is an associate editor of the ASME Journal of Mechanical Design and a department editor for IIE Transactions: Design and Manufacturing. Simpson is also on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Engineering Design and Engineering Optimization. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech and his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University.

The Fred Merryfield Design Award, established in 1981 by CH2M Hill, recognizes an engineering educator for excellence in teaching of engineering design and acknowledges other significant contributions related to engineering design teaching.


Robert G. Quinn Award

Ahmed Rubaai, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Howard University, received the Robert G. Quinn Award for his outstanding contributions to the development of laboratory curriculum-based hands-on experience through case studies, software, and laboratory hardware on the enhancement of learning in engineering education. He was responsible for developing the curriculum and research program for the electric drives and motion control streams within the Electrical Engineering Program at Howard University. He has contributed significantly to both undergraduate and graduate education and has been actively engaged in the development of innovative teaching techniques.

Rubaai has been an acknowledged educator and leader of curriculum development at Howard University for more than two decades. He is the founder and lead developer of the highly regarded Motion Control and Drives Laboratory, which specializes in experimental research in software and hardware systems and provides students with valuable hands-on and real-world experiences. Rubaai not only designs and constructs the laboratory workstations, but also facilitates a novel educational experience by using experiments he has written and developed himself. The foundation of Rubaai’s success in laboratory innovation and popularity as a teacher is his student-oriented approach. A proponent of innovative versus repetitive thinking, Rubaai stresses originality and creativity with his students. He has steered his many graduate students toward building successful careers in the motion controls field and establishing strong educational programs at their own institutions. For the minority electrical engineering students at Howard University who are bedeviled by the lack of role models in a challenging discipline, Rubaai is their “Dr. Quinn.”

As a leader in engineering education, Rubaai pioneered efforts to develop software packages for undergraduate engineering education. His educational software for computer-aided instruction in power transformer design demonstrates his innovative approach to teaching. This software is firmly established as a standard in power transformer practice-design software among educators and students of power systems, and influenced the development of the commercial educational software now used for this purpose. This innovation earned Rubaai international recognition, and his design is recognized as a model. His computer software has been acquired in such distant places as Indonesia, France, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.

Rubaai’s many honors include the IEEE Industry Applications Society (IAS) Second Prize Paper Award (2007); ASEE Division of Experimentation and Laboratory Oriented Studies Best Paper Award (2006); IEEE IAS Honorable Mention Prize Paper Award (2002); Howard University Exemplary Teaching Award (2005); ASEE Middle Atlantic Section Distinguished Educator Award (2001); NASA Glenn Software Release Award (2004); and being named Howard’s School of Engineering Professor of the Year (1997 and 1998). He has served as executive board member of the IEEE-IAS (2006-2008); Chair of the IEEE-IAS Manufacturing Systems Development and Applications Department (2006-2008); chair of the IAS Industrial Automation and Control Committee (2000-2002); and chair of the ASEE Division of Experimentation and Laboratory Oriented Studies (2010-2011).

The Robert G. Quinn Award recognizes outstanding contributions in providing and promoting excellence in experimentation and laboratory instruction.


William Elgin Wickenden Award

Gary Lichtenstein, Alexander C. McCormick, Sheri D. Sheppard, and Jini Puma received the 2011 William Elgin Wickenden Award for their article, “Comparing the Undergraduate Experience of Engineers to All Other Majors: Significant Differences are Programmatic,” which was published in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education.

Gary Lichtenstein is consulting professor in the school of engineering at Stanford University and owner of Quality Evaluation Designs, a firm specializing in education research, evaluation, and policy. He holds a doctorate in education from Stanford University. His intellectual interests include engineering education, mixed-methods research, and community-based research. For many years, he has conducted research and evaluation for K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and nonprofit and government agencies nationwide. Lichtenstein coauthored an article that was awarded the Wickenden Award in 2008. He is also a coauthor of a chapter on undergraduate engineering majors’ motivation, persistence, and retention, forthcoming in the first Handbook of Engineering Education Research (Aditya Johri & Barbara Olds, eds.).

Alexander C. McCormick is an associate professor of education at Indiana University (IU) Bloomington, where he teaches in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program. He also directs the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), housed at IU’s Center for Postsecondary Research. His research interests center assessment, accountability, and evidence-based improvement in higher education. Previously, McCormick was a senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, where he led an overhaul of the Foundation’s widely used classification of U.S. colleges and universities. He holds a bachelor’s degree in French from Dartmouth College, and a Ph.D. in education and sociology from Stanford University.

Sheri D. Sheppard, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, is the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Consulting Senior Scholar principally responsible for the Preparations for the Professions Program (PPP) engineering study. Results from the study are in the report “Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field”. In 2003, Sheppard was named co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to form the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education, along with faculty at the University of Washington, Colorado School of Mines, and Howard University. She has authored or coauthored over 120 refereed journal and conference papers and two textbooks on basic mechanics, and was a guest editor for a special 2008 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education entitled, “Educating Engineers: Who, What and How?” She has twice before won the Wickenden Award and received the Chester F. Carlson Award in 2004.

Jini Puma is a research associate at the Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center, in the School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Denver. Her research and evaluation interests are in immigrant health, early childhood obesity prevention, community-based participatory research methods, and social determinants of health. She holds a Ph.D. in quantitative research methods from the University of Denver. Prior to joining the RMPRC, she conducted research in early childhood development at the University of Denver.

Sponsored by the Journal of Engineering Education editorial review board, the award recognizes the author(s) of the best paper published in the Journal of Engineering Education during the previous January- to-October publication cycle.


These awards recognize high-quality papers selected from among those presented at the Annual Conference the previous year. Seven 2010 awards were given for outstanding papers: one from each of the five Professional Interest Councils (PICs), one Best Zone Paper, and one overall best conference paper.

Best Zone Paper

Presented to: Augusto Macalalag, Debra Brockway, Mercedes McKay, and Elisabeth McGrath – Stevens Institute of Technology
Paper: “Partnership to Improve Student Achievement in Engineering and Science Education: Lessons Learned In Year One”
Session: 1596

Best Paper, PIC I

Presented to: Stephen Ressler, United States Military Academy
Paper: “Assessing the Standards for Assessment: Is it Time to Update Criterion 3?”
Session: 1615

Best Paper, PIC II

Presented to: Nicole Genco, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth; Katja Holtta-Otto, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth; and Carolyn Conner Seepersad, University of Texas, Austin
Paper: “An Experimental Investigation of the Innovation Capabilities of Engineering Students”
Session: 2225

Best Paper, PIC III

Presented to: Beverly Jaeger, Susan Freeman, Richard Whalen, and Rebecca Payne – Northeastern University
Paper: “Successful Students: Smart or Tough?”
Session: 1553

Best Paper, PIC IV

Presented to: Nancy Warter-Perez, Jianyu Dong, Eun-Young Kang, Huiping Guo, Mauricio Castillo, Alexander Abramyan, and Keith Moo-Young – California State University, Los Angeles
Paper: “Strengthening the K-20 Engineering Pipeline for Underrepresented Minorities”
Session: 2269

Best Paper, PIC V

Presented to: Donald Visco, Tennessee Technological University; Dirk Schaefer, Georgia Institute of Technology; Tristan Utschig, Georgia Institute of Technology; J. P. Mohsen, University of Louisville; Norman Fortenberry, American Society for Engineering Education (formerly at National Academy of Engineering);Michael Prince, Bucknell University; and Cynthia Finelli, University of Michigan
Paper: “Preparing for Participation in SPEED: An ASEE Initiative for a Nationally Recognized Development Program for Engineering Educators”
Session: 1422

Best Conference Paper

Presented to: Beverly Jaeger, Susan Freeman, Richard Whalen, and Rebecca Payne – Northeastern University
Paper: “Successful Students: Smart or Tough?”
Session: 1553


All Divisions are ‘Publish to Present’

With a few exceptions, all conference papers must be submitted for peer review in order to be presented at the conference and, subsequently, published in the conference proceedings.

The process for the submission of ASEE annual conference papers is as follows: All authors must submit an abstract of their papers, to be reviewed and evaluated. Authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to submit a full paper draft to be reviewed by three engineering educators. A draft may be accepted as submitted, accepted with minor changes or major changes, or rejected. Successful review and acceptance of the full paper draft will produce a final paper to be presented at the annual conference. Exceptions to the “Publish to Present” requirement include invited speakers and panels.

Here are important dates in the process:

October 7, 2011 – Deadline for abstract submission

December 5, 2011-Jan. 6, 2012 – Period for submission of draft paper

February 25, 2011 – Deadline for accepting, rejecting, or accepting with changes draft papers

March 9-16, 2012 – Deadline for submitting final or revised draft papers

Abstracts for the conference must be submitted via ASEE’s Web-based conference abstract/paper submission system, Monolith.

Go to the conference website to learn more and see the full Call for Papers from each ASEE division.


Kamyar Haghighi, a distinguished professor of biological and agricultural engineering who went on to become the founding head of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, died May 9, 2011, after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He was 60.
While leading the School of Engineering Education from 2004 to 2010, Haghighi launched the first engineering education Ph.D. program in the United States and created the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE), which focuses on childhood engineering learning. He also oversaw ABET accreditation of a multidisciplinary engineering undergraduate program and integrated a design-focused first-year engineering program with Purdue’s Ideas to Innovation Learning Laboratory.

Haghighi received ASEE’s Chester F. Carlson Award in 2009. The award is given to an innovator who makes a significant contribution to engineering education while reaching beyond accepted traditions. The same year, he received a Distinguished Service Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Born in 1950 in Tehran, Haghighi graduated from Pahlavi (now Shiraz) University in 1972 with a B.S. in agricultural engineering. After coming to the United States, he earned his M.S. in agricultural engineering and, in 1979, a dual Ph.D. in applied mechanics and agricultural engineering, both from Michigan State University.

A memorial service was held June 12. Haghighi is survived by his wife, Atossa Rahmanifar, and two daughters, Nina and Shiva Haghighi.


Prism has won 13 awards for design and illustrations, and seven for editorial content so far in 2011, three more than during the same period last year.


Association of Educational Publishers (AEP)
Distinguished Achievement Award winner:

  • “Potent Medicine,” October 2010, Cover design

Distinguished Achievement Award finalists:

  • “Predictions, Please” April 2010, Cover design
  • “Where Minds Connect” September 2010, Cover design

Awards for Publication Excellence (APEX)

  • Grand Award, Writing: “Hammer, Brush, and Sickle, Summer 2010
  • Technology & Science Writing: “Under Attack,” December 2010
  • Financial and Investment Writing: “Leaping the Barrier,” March 2010
  • Education and Training: “Preparing Future Engineers Around the World,” February 2011
  • Green Writing: “Their Future Is Green,” April 2010
  • Cover: “You Just Got Hook’d,” December 2010
  • Illustration and Typography: “Wiring the Revolution,” Jan. 2011
  • Design Spread: “Hammer, Brush, and Sickle,” Summer 2010

The Communicator Awards

  • Cover Design: “Potent Medicine,” October 2010
  • Interior Design: “Catalyst,” September 2010
  • Interior Design: “Hype or Hope?” September 2010
  • Cover Design: “High Hurdle,” March 2010
  • Interior Design: “Leaping the Barrier,” March 2010
  • Cover Design: “Predictions, Please,” April 2010
  • Interior Design: “’bye the book,” April 2010
  • Copy/Writing: “Catalyst,” September 2010
  • Copy/Writing: “Raising the Roof,” November 2009



ASEE has negotiated a special arrangement with Bulletin News that will allow you to receive White House Bulletin, the comprehensive daily news summary that brings the nation’s powerbrokers up to speed on the morning’s developments, while providing an inside roadmap for future decisions. The Bulletin focuses on the plans being formulated behind closed doors in the Executive and Legislative Branches and pieces together the specifics to keep subscribers ahead of the curve on emerging issues. Over the last 18 years White House Bulletin has attracted a paying readership that includes the country’s most influential government and business leaders, including the top officials in the Executive Branch, members of Congress, major trade associations, the media, and Fortune 500 executives.

White House Bulletin will be a must-read for academics and industrial leaders seeking to understand the changing policy environment in Washington; for faculty members trying to stay abreast of the ups and downs of funding agencies, and for students seeking a concise way to keep up with events in a turbulent world.

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Don’t Get Lost in Translation

In exchanges with China, both sides can adapt.

In times of rapid growth, we are likely to feel growing pains and get some things wrong. So it is with the tremendous increase in engineering education partnerships with universities overseas, requiring us to enter very different learning environments with open minds and take the time to understand them. Exchanges with China offer a prime example, as I have learned during partnerships with several Chinese institutions.

By now, most international interaction in higher education has moved past the “study abroad” model in which students observe another culture while not truly leaving their own. But even with improved contact between Chinese and U.S. students and faculty, we still tend either to exaggerate the differences caused by language and cultural barriers – or to pretend that we’re all the same.

Observing a Chinese teenager texting in English will convince you that piercing the language barrier is not nearly as difficult as it might seem. Differences in culture often lead us to dwell too much on business-etiquette “do’s and taboos,” such as the proper way to exchange a business card or not to give a clock as a gift. Too much attention to small differences in manners can obscure more important lessons that engineering educators and students need to learn to make academic exchanges successful.

One lesson is not to be overly swayed by initial impressions. During my first day teaching in Shanghai, I was struck by how disengaged the students seemed, despite my attempt to draw their attention by gesturing, strolling between desks, speaking in my room-filling “teacher’s voice,” and posing questions. Not only was there a lack of intensity, but many students had what appeared to be a tired look of obliged attendance, with more than a few literally laying their heads down on their desks. Over the first few days of class, I found that students were not offering input nor even answering direct questions.

Observing classes taught by Chinese colleagues, I learned that my experience was in fact the norm: All professors wore microphones, spoke in quiet voices, and stayed in the teacher-designated space behind their desks. Significant numbers of students had their heads down, while others appeared to be playing with phones or eating.

But the seeming disengagement doesn’t mean all the students lacked seriousness. I was surprised to learn, for example, that a group of students came to my class over an hour early just to get the seats in front. They also were accustomed to seeking the meaning of the instruction for themselves, and didn’t need to be entertained or brought into question-and-answer sessions. Nor should we assume that students won’t accommodate different teaching styles. After I made clear that I didn’t plan to change my approach, students adjusted. Smiles became the norm. Most became comfortable with questions like “What are some different ways that we might approach this?” and many did, in fact, find a voice to respond to such ill-defined questions.

A senior design course or group projects expose other differences. Open-ended cases with a multitude of potential solutions are unsettling for many American students; to Chinese students, they are completely new territory. Chinese also tend to defer to and not challenge a team leader. And they will be more inclined to utilize theoretical analysis, while students in the United States may be more drawn to empirical testing.

When trying to establish successful partnerships, then, we need to work, explore, and be open to change and adjustments as the relationships develop, adapting to other cultural styles while helping students adapt to ours. With critical help from universities’ centers for international programs, communications departments, and local Chinese communities, engineering educators can pave the way for students in the United States, who often don’t do well initially in intercultural work groups. They will graduate into a world requiring patience and cultural awareness as they work with international teammates, or suppliers, or customers – who come increasingly from China. With flexibility and effort, we can help set up great outcomes on all sides, and yes, even enjoy the experience.


Joseph Untener is a professor of mechanical engineering technology at the University of Dayton. He has worked with Shanghai Normal University, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, and the Suzhou Industrial Park in various partnership programs.