International Students Are A Win-Win
Having spent 37 years in the United States, most of them in higher education, I have been asked many times: Why should we educate students from other countries?
It is a valid question, given that many major top-tier research universities receive state funds to support the mission of educating the state’s populace, coupled with the fact that international students, not domestic students, occupy more than half of the seats at the graduate level.
The United States was founded by immigrants seeking a land of opportunities. The social and economic freedom that the U.S. affords continues to attract immigrants from all over the world. One pathway toward immigration is to attend a graduate program in a STEM area, particularly in engineering, where the nation’s need for more engineers exceeds the domestic supply.
Nearly 820,000 international students were enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities in 20121. It is estimated that on average, each student spends $32,000 a year to study here, adding $26.2 billion to the U.S. economy². This amount is not insignificant. By comparison, it exceeds the entire NASA annual budget of $20 billion.
A significant number of international students who earn advanced degrees in engineering stay in the U.S. and contribute to society at large as high-wage-earning taxpayers. The drive to learn and earn advanced degrees in another country is the same that fuels focus and innovation. Those who return to their home countries carry with them the American DNA consisting of meritocracy, pluralism, and democratic values.
The greatest products that the U.S. can export to the rest of the world are its values, entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership, and technology through the portal of higher education. From my perspective, which includes both that of a student from another country and that of a citizen of this great nation, educating international students is a win-win situation. That said, it is incumbent on a faculty member like me in a state-assisted institution to diligently strive to recruit and educate domestic students at the graduate level in engineering.
N. K. Anand
Executive Associate Dean of Engineering
Associate Director, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station
Regents Professor; James M. and Ada Sutton Forsyth Professor
Texas A&M University,
College Station, Texas
Stem and the Arts
Re Alice Daniel’s report “Full STEAM Ahead” (Prism, March-April 2015): This informative article is interesting for what it says and for its omissions. It is gratifying to read the number and variety of initiatives to combine the two major aspects of design, artistic and engineering, yet I have severe concerns on several fronts. The problems lie in implementation. We first need to explore in more detail the differences between the two forms of design (see reference 6, below). Artistic design works mainly from outside inward, considering mainly the external form (the passenger space in a car is in this sense “external” to the engineered frame and enclosure). In contrast, engineering works from inside outward. Artistic designers proceed mainly intuitively, with little structure to their process, whereas engineering designers are constrained by the engineering sciences, the laws of the land, and socioeconomic factors, but can use several abstract structural aspects of their products to help in conceptualizing and delineating their products. As distinct from artistic designers, engineering designers are directly responsible for the safety of their products, and can be held legally liable for failures and consequential damage.
My first concern is about the design ability and experience of the academic staff in the engineering faculties. Few academic staff members have any experience of engineering design in industry, and those who do have little idea what has been done about a scientific investigation and explanation of designing, starting in the 1960s in Europe – surely a necessary foundation for talking about designing as an activity, and instructing future engineering designers. Such a foundation exists (see references 1-7 below) over and above the engineering sciences, which are useful for both analysis and synthesis, the latter often hardly mentioned in engineering courses.
This foundation for engineering covers a logical explanation of the nature of any designed technical product (system). Artistic designing has almost no such explanation powers available.
Logically derived from this explanation for engineering is a set of models of technical systems using several abstractions that can be used to thoroughly explore a design space from various useful viewpoints. A suggested design methodology for voluntary application is based on these models. A survey of available pragmatic and industry-best-practice design methods can also help the engineering designer in his/her quest to achieve an optimal technical solution to the problem. Guidance in the application of these models and methods is available in the form of (up to now) 23 case examples, including several devices that have been built and are in practical use.
The second concern relates to the products addressed. Collaboration between engineering designers and artistic designers demands mutual respect, and some awareness of the responsibilities, limitations, and consequences of the actions of each upon the other. For industrial capital goods (machine tools, earth-moving equipment, electrical power transformers and switchgear, etc.), the artistic designer can at best improve the outward appearance (including style and fashion) and ergonomics of a product; the composition of the active parts (mostly hidden) is almost purely an engineering problem. For consumer durables (cars, household machines, etc.), it is common for the artistic designers to dictate an external form (shape) and thus constrict the space into which the engineering designer must fit the active parts. Any subsequent change in external (artistic) form often requires rearrangement of the internal engineering parts, at a cost of time, expense, and annoyance for the consequent wastage of effort on the part of the engineers. Nevertheless, the artistic designer is named as responsible for the product; the engineering designers are generally overlooked. This is partly a consequence of numbers – artistic designers work mainly as individuals; engineering design tends to be a team effort.
The NASA space explorations were consequently labeled scientific successes but subject to engineering failures – an attitude stemming from a general ignorance about engineering in the population that needs to be corrected.
Before we go overboard, we need a more comprehensive discussion on what is known about engineering and artistic designing, and a more logical approach to teaching and learning. Seat-of-the-pants approaches are sorely inadequate in these times.
W. Ernst Eder
ASEE Life Member
Professor Emeritus, Royal Military College of Canada
- Eder, W.E. and Hosnedl, S., Introduction to Design Engineering: Systematic Creativity and Management, Leiden, NL: CRC Press/Balkema, 2010.
- Eder, W.E., “Theory of Technical Systems – Learning Tool for Engineering Education,” paper number 3, in Proc. Canadian Engineering Education Association CEEA 2014 Conference, 8-11 June 2014, Canmore, AB.
- Eder, W.E., “A Strategy for Teaching and Learning of Systematic Design Engineering,” paper number 2, in Proc. Canadian Engineering Education Association CEEA 2014 Conference, 8-11 June 2014, Canmore, AB.
- Eder, W.E., ‘Enhancement of Engineering Design Within Product Development’, paper 124 in Proc. Tools and Methods in Competitive Engineering – TMCE 2014 Symposium – 19-23 May 2014, Budapest, Hungary.
- Eder, W.E., “Teaching and Learning Modes for Design Engineering,” paper number 5 in Proc. Canadian Engineering Education Association CEEA 2013 Conference, 17-20 June 2013, École Polytechnique – Montreal.
- Eder, W.E., “Engineering Design vs. Artistic Design – A Discussion,” paper number 7 in Proc. Canadian Engineering Education Association CEEA 2012 Conference, 17-20 June 2012, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.
- Eder, W.E., “Theory of Technical Systems – Relationships to Engineering Sciences,” paper 3 in Proc. CEEA 2011 Conference, 6-8 June 2011, Memorial University, St. Johns, Newfoundland.