PLUS: Britain’s shorter route—could it work here?
Mary McCormick joined an environmental engineering firm after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2006 from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. But after four months analyzing levees and dams for seepage and slope stability, she left, feeling she lacked sufficient analytical skills and the ability to solve ill-defined real-world problems. “A master’s was critical if I wanted to move forward in engineering. I didn’t feel adequately prepared to jump into the field,” recounts McCormick, 28. A graduate program at Tufts University helped deepen her knowledge of theory and practical implications, giving her the confidence to make assumptions when necessary.
McCormick’s decision was justified, say the several large professional societies and various engineering luminaries waging a quiet campaign to make the master’s the first professional degree for engineers. Opponents argue just as passionately that the current system of minting engineers works just fine, and say there’s no evidence that either industry or the public is dissatisfied with the quality of America’s engineering workforce. Now the debate is gaining a higher profile, with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) leading an initiative called Raise the Bar, which would require engineers to have a master’s before applying for a Professional Engineer (P.E.) license. At ASEE’s annual conference in June, the society’s civil engineering division will sponsor what it is billing as the first open discussion of the issue at a major venue of engineering educators.
First raised in the 1940s, the notion of requiring a master’s for professional engineers resurfaced in 1965 in a recommendation from a Goals Committee led by Eric Walker, ASEE president in 1960-61. The idea drew opposition from three-quarters of the engineering organizations and more than half of the individuals who responded to the committee’s preliminary report. More recently, the idea has been embraced by the National Academy of Engineering panel that prepared the 2005 report “Educating the Engineer of 2020,” as well as by such éminences grises as former University of Michigan President James Duderstadt and Norman Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin. John A. White, chancellor emeritus at the University of Arkansas and former engineering dean at Georgia Tech, made the case for it at ASEE’s 2012 Public Policy Colloquium. On the opposing side are the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Council of Engineering Companies, and the executive board of ASEE’s Engineering Deans Council, which has twice voted unanimously in recent years to reject the idea. The full council plans to issue its own position. Within ASEE as a whole, opinion appears to be divided.
‘The World’s Best’
Proponents argue that to remain a technological leader in today’s fast-changing, digitized world, the United States needs engineers with excellent technical training who are also “broadly educated,” as the NAE “2020” panel put it, with good communications skills and a grounding in humanities, language, and social sciences – a tall order for a bachelor’s program. “Our jobs are getting more complex, and those who say they’re not getting more complex have their heads in the sand,” argues Blaine Leonard, an ASCE past president who is leading the Raise the Bar initiative. Duderstadt agrees. “We need to produce the world’s best engineers,” he adds, “and we can’t do that at the bachelor’s level.” Asia, he notes, can churn out tens of thousands of engineers “who work for 20 cents on the dollar.”
Opponents counter that technology and improvements in teaching enable today’s students to gain the required knowledge and skills in less time. Amos Holt, an ASME past president, says faster, more powerful computers mean that “a physics paper that took me three weeks can now be done in 30 minutes.” He adds, “More time is simply not a convincing argument.” Nicholas J. Altiero, science and engineering dean at Tulane University and chairman of the deans’ council’s executive board, notes that most incoming students have already earned Advance Placement credits, fulfilling some early-year requirements. Moreover, he says, “engineering faculty have worked hard on the development of pedagogy so that a credit hour today is much more effective than a credit hour decades ago.”
Adoption of the master’s route to licensure could delay, if not derail, the Obama administration’s industry-backed push to graduate 100,000 more engineers over the next decade. That doesn’t faze some master’s proponents. “We don’t need more engineers,” White says. “We need better engineering degrees.” Currently, the engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded at U.S. schools outnumber master’s degrees by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio, but enrollment in master’s programs has been growing in recent years amid an influx of students from overseas.
Opponents worry that the additional time and money it would cost students to complete their engineering education could dent undergraduate enrollment, a fear ASCE’s Leonard calls overblown. He notes that many employers give financial assistance to engineers who attend graduate school. When pharmacy and accounting schools extended their curricula, neither suffered a long-term loss of enrollment, he says.
But if added time and cost don’t scare off undergraduates, universities would still need more space and faculty for expanded master’s programs, Altiero argues. “Where’s the capacity going to come from? That’s another issue.” David Munson, the University of Michigan’s engineering dean, has made a back-of-the-envelope calculation that it could cost schools nationwide $6 billion to add the faculty and facilities they would need to meet Obama’s demand for 10,000 more engineers a year — all at a time when most public schools are facing reductions in state funding. Seeking accreditation of master’s programs – something most engineering schools currently forgo, would impose an additional burden.
Whither the bachelor’s degree if an M.S. were required to become an engineer? Mostly likely it would devolve into a pre-engineering degree that would allow holders to work as technologists or para-engineers. “There is a role for para-engineers,” Augustine says. ASME’s Holt says that would render the B.S. a second-class degree. “And that’s screwy. It’s not logical.”
Who Takes the P.E. Exam?
Raise the Bar is, for now, the most concerted effort promoting the master’s degree. It urges states to adopt the new model law approved several years ago by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), the organization that administers the exams engineers in each state must take to become a licensed Professional Engineer. Currently, any engineer who wants to apply for a P.E. license must have a B.S. from an accredited engineering program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering and Principles and Practices in Engineering exams, and have four years’ work experience. The new model law would add to these criteria either a master’s degree or 30 additional credit hours of upper-level undergraduate or graduate courses in engineering, math, or science.
The majority of P.E. exam-takers, perhaps around 60 percent, are civil engineers. Mechanical engineers account for about 10 percent, electrical engineers perhaps 4 percent. Civil engineers are more likely to work as consultants on public works projects or directly for government agencies, jobs that require a license. Many engineers from other disciplines tend to get hired by companies that don’t demand a license. Under an industrial exemption in most states – one that the National Society of Professional Engineers wants changed – product manufacturers and electrical and telecommunications utilities are not required to employ licensed engineers.
ASCE says that raising the requirement for a P.E. will encourage more students to seek a master’s. Duderstadt and White, while they share ASCE’s goal, question its approach. “Bringing licensure into this discussion just confuses the issue,” White says. “It’s a whole different agenda.” Duderstadt thinks a better route would be to use the accrediting agency ABET, which does not have an official position on the issue, as a lever for change: “The quickest way to achieve this is to push ABET out of accrediting undergraduate programs. ABET should focus on graduate-level programs only, where the true professional education begins.” But White doesn’t buy into Duderstadt’s plan, either. “It would be undercut by industry,” he says, because companies would continue to hire students with bachelor’s degrees. He himself doesn’t have a strategy: “We need to do it. But I am not sure how we can get there. I am not sure how we put the genie back into the bottle.”
Keen as Ever
Ultimately, White and Augustine say, market forces will bring change. Students will find that the kinds of jobs available to bachelor’s degree-level engineers are vulnerable to offshoring, and realize “that’s a dangerous place to be,” says Augustine. But Charles Hickman, ABET’s managing director for communications, says industry is as keen as ever to hire newly graduated engineers, and costs are pushing schools to find ways to graduate engineers in even less time.
So far, no state has adopted NCEES’s model law, and Joe Sussman, ABET’s managing director for accreditation, predicts that industry will lobby successfully in each state to block it. “That dog won’t hunt,” he says of the model law. But ASME’s Holt notes that state licensing boards are heavily laden with civil engineers, “and they’re pushing this hard.”
The status quo suits Mary McCormick, who is now pursuing a doctorate at Tufts, just fine. Even though four months on the job persuaded her that she needed more than a bachelor’s offered, she still favors the current system of letting students figure out for themselves how much schooling they need. “I don’t think it should be required to go beyond four years. It’s nice to have that break point, to have time to stop and reflect.”
Thomas K. Grose is Prism’s chief correspondent, based in London.
A Quicker Route
Could the less-costly British model work here? Educators are skeptical.
Last year, around 16,000 students graduated from British universities with a bachelor’s degree-level engineering diploma, or B.Eng., after completing a three-year curriculum devoid of liberal arts courses. Meanwhile, some 72,300 bachelor’s degrees in engineering were awarded to American students, each of whom studied a variety of general education courses and, on average, took 4.5 years to finish.
Should American schools take a page from the British syllabus and offer a three-year, general-education-free engineering degree? It’s a relevant question, given the pressure from the White House and industry for more engineers, the financial straits of public universities, and rising tuition and student debt. While advocates of a broader engineering education would doubtless oppose the idea, ABET, the accrediting agency, doesn’t rule it out. “It is not our position that a three-year degree is a bad plan,” says Joe Sussman, ABET’s managing director for accreditation. ABET requires students to receive a full year of mathematics and basic science and a year and a half of engineering topics, and for a baccalaureate program to meet requirements set by regional accrediting agencies and the school itself. If a school tried to craft a three-year program that met all those requirements, “we would try to help it,” Sussman says.
Even if U.S. schools were willing – a big if – it would be tough to follow the British model exactly. British students arguably enter university with better, though narrower, preparation. David Radcliffe, an Australian who obtained his bioengineering doctorate at Scotland’s Strathclyde University and now heads the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, says of the British: “They start at a higher level of learning than their U.S. peers.”
Tops in Math and Physics
At age 16, students in the United Kingdom who hope to attend a university begin two years of Advanced Level preparation. Typically, most start out with four A-Level courses and drop the one they’re weakest in after the first year. The final grades are the cumulative results of exams taken at the end of the first and second years. Students who want to study engineering in college must have top results in calculus and physics. Many also earn an A-Level in chemistry. Accordingly, engineering students arrive at their universities having already received rigorous math and science instruction. “Our students come in with a wider knowledge of science and technology. The assumption is, we do not have to spend too much time teaching maths,” says Richard Shearman, deputy CEO of the Engineering Council, the agency that regulates the U.K. engineering profession.
In the United States, freshman and sophomore engineering students must spend considerable time on physics, calculus, and chemistry. And because many students enter college ill-prepared for advanced math, they first have to take precalculus — and that’s one big reason it takes American students more than four years, on average, to graduate.
Where would a three-year degree leave the “soft skills,” the ability to communicate well, work in teams, and be prepared to work in a diverse global environment? That’s where American engineering schools tend to rely on humanities and social science departments and semesters abroad. “Engineers need to understand more of the societal, economic, and global contexts of what they design,” says Joseph Herkert, an associate professor of ethics and technology at Arizona State University. “They don’t get that in tech courses.”
In Britain, says Shearman, “we think that [soft skills] can be taught within the context of the engineering curriculum.” Leaving it to liberal arts instructors, he says, could alienate engineering students “because it seems like a kind of artificial input. In the context of a project, doing teamwork, those [professional] skills make more sense.” Adds Jane Horner, associate dean for teaching in the faculty of engineering at Loughborough University: “We teach sustainability, and we teach business from the engineering perspective.” Lessons in professional skills are incorporated into project-based courses right from the start: “There is a teamwork approach from the first year onward.” While U.S. engineering instructors have in recent years attached more importance to written and oral communication and teamwork, “there would be great faculty reluctance to ‘watering down’ the technical content of their courses with more soft skills than we currently provide,” says John Prados, a professor emeritus of chemical engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
A three-year B.Eng. degree qualifies Britons to become Incorporated Engineers. But to secure the more elite Chartered Engineer qualification — a status somewhat akin to Professional Engineer (P.E.) in the United States — British engineers must earn an M.Eng. or demonstrate equivalent knowledge and competence through other means. In the United States, engineering is one of the few licensed professions still open to bachelor’s degree holders. However, civil engineering groups have been lobbying to change that policy.
Appeal to Industry
While a three-year degree would lessen a U.S. student’s debt load, few are likely to see it as equivalent to a four-year B.S., argues Donna Riley, an associate professor of engineering at Smith College. “It wouldn’t really be a bachelor’s degree,” she says. “It would be something in between, something else. And I am not sure that it would be an incentive to bring more students into engineering.” Nor would faculty welcome it, says Eduardo Glandt, engineering dean at the University of Pennsylvania. “A three-year degree would be understandably suspect . . . it would get no faculty respect. I don’t see it happening” at four-year residence schools. Still, Glandt recognizes its appeal to industry. He regularly hears from business leaders that “vocational education has largely disappeared from the United States,” and that there should be more diversity in degrees. If so, a shorter degree could be offered by online distance-learning establishments, he suggests. Indeed, ABET’s managing director for communications, Charles Hickman, says any radical changes to the engineering degree are indeed likely to come from “unconventional providers,” because established schools have no need to market something new.
Nevertheless, Glandt is convinced that the American four-year degree will stand the test of time, in part because it is so widely understood, tested, and respected. During those four years, “there is a lot going on outside the syllabus. Half of what kids learn is outside the classroom,” Glandt says. “You might say that the four-year degree is a luxury of the well-off, but it is a very worthwhile luxury.” –TG
Eric Jackson’s dream unfolds across five handwritten pages sent to ASEE from California Men’s Colony, a minimum- and medium-security state prison near San Luis Obispo. “I’ve been attracted to how things work and why since a little boy,” he writes in dense, slanted script. Starting with bicycles fabricated from abandoned parts and wooden go-carts powered by lawnmower engines, he graduated to welding jobs at seafood processing plants and aboard ships, and even taught welding at a community college. Then a separation from his wife, drug use, depression, and homelessness sent him on a downward spiral toward a robbery conviction. Now 53 and due for release in a few years, he wants to earn an engineering degree—but how?
If Jackson were incarcerated in New Zealand, the answer would be straightforward. With a policy that combines prisoner rehabilitation and filling gaps in industry, New Zealand boasts what may be one of the world’s most comprehensive prison technical education programs. Among them, eight prisons offer no fewer than 36 engineering courses. Together with on-the-job training and work release, these courses lead to various levels of qualification up to Level 4 certification, a government benchmark equivalent to finishing a first year of university-level engineering.
But comparable programs are rare in this country, if they exist at all. Numerous interviews and an extensive Internet search—prompted by queries to ASEE from Jackson and other inmates—turned up few prison education efforts offering postsecondary science and math, and none that offered university-level engineering. In general, Jackson and other aspiring engineers in the nation’s bulging penal system face an uphill struggle.
To some prison experts and educators, an opportunity is being missed. “If you’ve got a prison system that is largely uneducated, providing education makes a lot of sense,” says Ann Jacobs, director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute, part of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. John Linton, a U.S. Department of Education prison expert, told a conference last year, “An approach best described as ‘lock’ em up for a long time in a harsh environment and then dump them out when they have finished their sentences’ is leaving us with a large group of repeat offenders who are then requiring that more and more prison cells be constructed.”
Each of America’s 2.2 million prisoners—a more than sixfold increase in 30 years, with people of color now accounting for 60 percent—costs taxpayers an average of $22,000 to $25,000 per year at a time when many states face a budget squeeze. Some states are being forced by financial woes, or the courts, to release prisoners early or incarcerate only serious offenders. Despite already overcrowded prisons, Illinois plans to shutter 14 facilities. A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court found that California’s prisons constituted cruel and unusual punishment and ordered the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000. Nationwide, two thirds of released inmates are arrested within three years.
Lack of Prior Schooling
Research has shown that inmates who receive education or job training while in prison are much less likely to commit more crimes—69 percent less likely if they earn an associate’s degree, according to a 2005 study. Yet only about 6 percent of inmates were enrolled in postsecondary education during the 2009-10 academic year, and 86 percent of those were in just 13 states. In part, these numbers reflect many prisoners’ lack of a high school education to start with, but prison education is also hampered by little or no access to the Internet, thus preventing distance learning, along with transfers, lockdowns, and scarce funds. Furthermore, a 1994 law makes state and federal prisoners ineligible for Pell grants.
“Now I agree that prison should not be easy or enjoyable,” writes Matthew Winter from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, N.Y. He, like Jackson, sought guidance from ASEE. “But I don’t see how offering inmates the chance to continue their educations would be a detriment to the current harsh environment of a maximum security prison.”
The 2,200 inmates who earned associate degrees and 400 who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2009-10 show that at least a small minority can advance, and a number of engineers and engineering students have, over the years, volunteered time to help. Steven Lanzisera and Erik Douglas, engineering graduates from the University of California-Berkeley, taught several classes at San Quentin State Prison. While Douglas taught pre-algebra and first-year-level chemistry, Lanzisera, now a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, explained statistics and probability by using examples familiar to engineers, such as manufacturing yield and materials tolerances.
Less-formal instruction occurred in a 2006-to-2008 collaboration between Purdue University’s Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program and Indiana prisons. Together, students and inmates at the Indianapolis Women’s Prison produced information kiosks to serve the poor and homeless in Lafayette, Ind. While prisoners built the structures, students installed electronic equipment, including a touch-screen with access to a computer database of social services and a handset to call the Lafayette Crisis Center. Some two dozen students joined with inmates in a woodworking program to create learning aids for schoolchildren, including a 10-foot dinosaur; a laser harp, which makes the sound of musical notes when the beams are broken; a wind tunnel; and a Mars rover robot. Meanwhile, male inmates at the Westville Correctional Facility worked with EPICS students to build fiberglass shells for soapbox derby racers.
EPICS’ ties with the prison were severed when a statewide prison restructuring resulted in contracting out education services. “It was a wonderful relationship,” says EPICS Purdue program coordinator Pam Brown. “It’s just sad that it ended.” While useful to the inmates as vocational training, the program also expanded their understanding of engineering concepts, especially the design process, helped them interpret computer-aided designs, and showed them how engineers work.
It was not, however, the kind of training geared toward professional qualification. And William Oakes, EPICS director and associate professor of engineering education at Purdue, questions whether a formal program should even be attempted. “I don’t think it’s realistic,” he says, with government at all levels cutting budgets. Implementation would be daunting, he adds, although teaching could succeed with gifted prisoners despite their often rudimentary math skills.
Theory Plus Apprenticeships
New Zealand’s Corrections Inmate Employment program at least puts prisoners on track toward becoming full-fledged engineers. Its training incorporates both engineering theory and hands-on projects, and typically covers maintenance and use of equipment such as portable power tools, trade calculations, comprehension of metals and fasteners used in mechanical engineering, and mechanical assembly. At Christchurch Men’s Prison, inmates can complete up to 5,000 hours of apprenticeship alongside classroom studies, putting them on a par with university engineering students. Training for female inmates stops short of that but still prepares them to compete for skilled automotive jobs on their release.
“Engineering is one industry sector where there has been quite some success in prisoners obtaining post-release employment,” says Rachel Bulliff, national prisoner training coordinator. If ex-inmates manage to become full-fledged engineers, their criminal records won’t prevent them from applying for one of the six engineering-related licenses available.
In this country, the licensing and employment picture is more complicated. Oakes, for one, says that without more corporate and university support for ex-offender hiring than now exists, “just giving them education in a vacuum is not going to be sufficient.” State licensing laws for engineers vary from state to state. Whether a license is granted or revoked often depends on the severity of the crime, how long ago it was committed, whether it had to do with the engineering profession, recidivism, and whether or not a former inmate can persuade a licensing board that he or she has been rehabilitated.
Many states ask applicants if they have a conviction, but leave the ultimate decision up to the licensing board. Missouri, which follows this procedure, has several licensed engineers with felony records. Kentucky is relatively restrictive, barring anyone with a conviction that includes “violence, sexual misconduct, fraud, or deceit” in the previous 10 years.
Some companies are willing to ignore the stigma often attached to ex-convicts seeking employment. Cascade Engineering, a manufacturing, technology, and consulting firm based in Grand Rapids, Mich., has a nondiscrimination policy regarding ex-inmates and hires them regularly, though typically in nonengineering, entry-level positions. It’s a “win-win for businesses,” says Kelley Losey, director of Cascade’s consulting division, explaining that when provided with the right support systems, prisoners can turn out to be more devoted employees than people who haven’t been incarcerated. Once a person is hired, the criminal record is kept private.
The company collaborates with Butterball Farms, a specialty butter producer, and nonprofits Hope Network and Goodwill in helping prisoners make the transition to the workplace. They’ve already challenged 30 Grand Rapids-area employers to hire two “returning citizens” each and keep track of their progress for two years as part of a study the collaborative plans to publish with Grand Rapids Community College. Furthermore, the group is asking 100 companies to “Ban the Box,” or eliminate a field on application forms that requires a checkmark if a person has a felony conviction.
This kind of tolerance could help Eric Jackson make a new start. Once released, he hopes to gain certification as a welding inspector and, from there, set out to realize his dream. He knows money will be a problem but writes, “I’m up for it, there’s no victory without challenge.”
Jaimie Schock is an editorial assistant at ASEE.
Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga all belt out chart-topping singles in a costume tailor-made for a techno beat and larger-than-life image: an LED dress, among the latest in an unbroken thread of textile innovations since the industrial revolution. This version from CuteCircuit turns the wearer into moving art, aglow with Swarovski crystals and 1,500 hand-sewn, wirelessly controlled LED lights powered by rechargeable LiPo batteries. Wearable technology reaches beyond couture to lightweight military armor and applications in sports, cybersecurity, and medicine. Sensor-studded e-textiles pioneered by chemical engineer Danilo De Rossi of Italy’s University of Pisa, for instance, can help recovering stroke patients. Whether you’re an athlete straining for victory or a rocker plugging in for the Grammys, high-tech fibers show that function can also be fashionable.
Is your cellphone spilling secrets? Even switched off, most mobile devices emit data, beaming their location to service providers. MIAmobi’s “SilentPocket” cases have a nanosilver lining that blocks all incoming and outbound electromagnetic transmissions, including RFID signals used by hackers and identity thieves to steal information. Research at the nexus of textiles and nanotechnology is yielding a host of new materials, like self-decontaminating fabric, with commercial, environmental, and defense potential. Cornell’s Juan Hinestroza, for instance, is finding new methods of applying nanoscale metal particles to fabrics through electrostatic assembly.
Practice makes perfect, but elite athletes need more than training to boost performance. Enter the next generation of athletic wear, which can record the body’s movements in fine detail, helping athletes and coaches better understand what makes a great performance. Equipped with electronic sensors and a three-axis accelerometer, this NFL-tested Under Armour E39 biometric shirt monitors breathing and heart rate while measuring the swiftness of a runner’s left and right strides independently. Four students at Northeastern University take the concept even further with Squid, a shirt that tracks muscle activity and counts your reps as it monitors your heart. Four EMG sensors (or “tentacles”) attached to the shirt record muscle movements and send the data directly to a smartphone app and Internet portal, keeping users up to date on all their workout habits.
High-performance garb is de rigueur for athletes. Now, it’s racehorses’ turn. This colorful suit, designed by Matthew Spice of Sydney, Australia, harnesses durable, warp-knit wicking sportswear fabric and a “graduated compression technology” to enhance circulation and help horses rebound from exertion. Spice’s biggest challenge? Maintaining consistent compression around the top of the legs and through the chest. Also, “horses are difficult to clothe, as you can’t bend their legs and step them into a garment like this.” Solution: Five YKK high-performance sports zippers. Watch Australia’s equine Olympians turn heads in London.
Flashy fabric is hot. But dyeing textiles consumes an average of 20 gallons of water per pound of material. A spinoff of the Netherlands’ FeyeCon Group, which began as a Delft University of Technology start-up, has developed a completely water-free process that uses carbon dioxide to dye polyester, lowering operational costs and waste. Seeing the technology’s “potential to revolutionize textile manufacturing,” Nike’s Sustainable Business and Innovation Lab recently partnered with the spinoff, DyeCoo Textile Systems, to manufacture footwear and research ways to apply the process to other natural and synthetic fibers.
Brazilian designer Pedro Nakazato Andrade tries to incorporate a “deep understanding of people” into products and services. Applying social media, he believes, can speed the mending of fractures. Bones, a concept cast that he developed at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, has embedded electromyographic sensors that capture muscle activity around a break and report the data to a website, where patients can track their recovery, view others’ progress, and find appropriate exercises. As Andrade told Fast Company last summer: “Sharing this information is a way to encourage new users to engage with their recovery process from the beginning of their treatment.”
Don’t take Zohar Lazar’s whimsical cover illustration too literally: The debate over requiring a master’s as the first professional degree for engineers hasn’t escalated to fisticuffs. But it’s a sensitive, high-stakes topic for engineering educators, with strong feelings and sound arguments on both sides, and it’s not going away. Now that leading engineering societies are weighing in with state authorities and ASEE deans plan to take a position, we thought an objective, in-depth exploration was needed. Tom Grose’s cover story, “Steeper Ascent,” provides one. A sidebar poses the question of whether an alternative British model of a three-year engineering bachelor’s degree could gain U.S. acceptance. Tom’s reporting and Stacie Harrison’s design turn what could be a dry subject into a lively package.
The drumbeat of statistics on America’s penal system sounds a distress call. The numbers tell of overcrowding, high recidivism, swelling costs, and a disproportionate impact on minorities. But one number leaps out from Jaimie Schock’s feature, “Outside Chance”: Despite evidence that education and job training reduce the likelihood of an inmate’s committing more crimes, only about 6 percent of prisoners were enrolled in postsecondary education in the 2009-10 academic year. Could many potential engineers be falling through the cracks of U.S. prisons? We can’t know for sure, but New Zealand’s example of putting inmates on track to become qualified engineers – and fill a gap in that nation’s job market – suggests it’s a question worth asking.
As in past summer issues, our third feature is a photo essay. This year’s, collected with an eye for both style and substance by graphic designer Yajaira Lockhart, spotlights advances in textiles and clothing, from a dress that literally lights up the stage to a new cast for fractures and a suit to enhance a racehorse’s performance.
Don’t miss the third and final letter from ASEE President Don Giddens and a special section on what you can see, hear, and do at the upcoming ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition in San Antonio, Texas. See you there.
When snow melts in the Alps, European ski and snowboard fanatics may soon be heading to Skipark 360º, 45 minutes from Stockholm, a year-round indoor winter sports arena with everything from downhill skiing to ice hockey and international slalom competitions. Dominated by a covered, 150-foot-wide reinforced concrete slope rising nearly 600 feet, it will manufacture its own snow yet rely on renewable energy. At least, that’s the plan developed by Berg | C. F. Møller Architects with help from Sweco, an engineering firm specializing in sustainability. The $300 million project still needs investors, says Jan-Erik Mattsson, head of the architecture firm’s Stockholm office. But if it succeeds, coinventors Glenn Bovin and Per Hammarström could market their concept elsewhere. Istanbul and Las Vegas are interested. – MARK MATTHEWS
Millions of people – up to 25 percent of those living in nontropical regions – get the blues during winter. Current treatment for the aptly named SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, requires shining a light in the sufferer’s face for up to two hours a day. But Finnish start-up Valkee has a better idea: directing light into sufferers’ ears. The therapy is based on research from Oulu University that discovered the exact location of light-sensitive proteins on the surface of the brain. The OPN3 proteins are part of a group also found in the retina. Researchers believe the brain proteins are key to curing SAD, however, because they are clustered in the same areas that control mood, sleep, and depression; shining light into ear canals is the most effective way of reaching them. The Valkee device resembles a portable MP3 player, but each earbud contains an LED bulb that emits the same wavelength light as sunshine. In clincal tests with a small sample, 92 percent of severe SAD sufferers who used the device for 8 to 12 minutes a day reported all symptoms of depression had disappeared. A psychiatrist-administered test found that 77 percent experienced full remission of symptoms. On sale in Finland for about $130, the Valkee is proving popular. While there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues, for many people the wintertime variation may soon be history. –THOMAS K. GROSE
Britain’s Big Dig
The Olympics and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee will draw tourists to London this summer. But another big event under way in the British capital is sadly off limits to visitors: Europe’s largest civil engineering project. When completed in 2018, the $25.6 billion Crossrail system will run 73 miles—26 of them via underground tunnels—from Maidenhead and Heathrow west of London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood to the east. The first of eight massive tunnel boring machines (TBMs) began excavations in March for the underground links in Royal Oak, West London. At a snail’s pace of 330 feet a day, the TBM is boring its way to Farringdon, some 10.3 miles to the east. The 495-foot-long TBMs weigh some 1,000 tons each and can operate around the clock, thanks to a 20-person “tunnel gang.” (Each TBM contains a kitchen and toilet for the crew.) An aboveground controller uses GPS to keep track of the mechanical mega-moles, helping them maneuver around such existing infrastructure as sewers and London Underground subway tunnels. The burrows run deep, too, down to 132 feet at some points. And dig this: Once this project is finished, the TBMs will be refurbished by German manufacturer Herrenknecht for subterranean jobs elsewhere. Nothing boring about that. – TG
Renewable energy forms the centerpiece of an ambitious plan by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right government to devote more than $260 billion – 8 percent of GDP – toward the goal of ensuring that half the country’s energy comes from renewables by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. Moreover, because of last year’s meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima reactor, Germany’s green-energy crusade is sans nuclear power. Over the next decade, plans call for shuttering 17 nuclear plants, which provide a fifth of the country’s electricity. Germany counts on replacing much of that loss with power from wind farms in the North and Baltic seas. The offshore farms will cover an area six times the size of New York City, according to Bloomberg News. Coal-rich Germany will include that nonrenewable fuel in its energy mix, but future plants will be made superefficient to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Many of the technologies Germany will need to succeed, particularly large-scale power storage to accommodate the intermittent nature of renewable energy, are either in their infancy or do not yet exist, however. If Germany overcomes those hurdles, an energy expert told Bloomberg News, it will become a clean-energy role model. Failure, she adds, “will be a disaster for Germany’s politicians, society and economy.” So, no pressure then. – TG
FACTOID – 33% – The percentage drop in U.S. net oil imports over the past six years from their peak in 2005. The decline results from a combination of higher oil prices, an economic slowdown, and an increase in domestic supplies of oil and alternative fuels. Source: Congressional Research Service April 4, 2012, report, “U.S. Oil Imports and Exports”.
Remember Watson, the IBM supercomputer that walloped two former human champions on Jeopardy last year? Well, Watson’s now in med school – sort of. The machine is learning oncology so it eventually can become a “decision-support tool” for physicians at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the world’s oldest and largest private cancer hospital. Watson is devouring not only Sloan-Kettering’s vast collection of patient records but also information from texts and journals that it can mine later. Dr. Watson won’t make diagnoses or prescribe therapies. Rather, it will give doctors what IBM calls “evidence-based, statistically ranked responses” to help them select treatments. Watson is adept at understanding natural-language queries and swiftly making sense of massive reams of unstructured information – it can digest 200 million pages of data in three seconds. Watson should be ready to begin assisting physicians sometime next year. – TG
They’re no American idols, but robot musicians have grown surprisingly talented. At this year’s TED conference, Vijay Kumar, deputy dean for education at the University of Pennsylvania, wowed the crowd with a video of flying robots called quadrotors that darted over keyboard, drum, and electric guitar to belt out a passable rendition of the James Bond theme. (http://bit.ly/HVAaTP) Kumar is a member of Penn’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab, which develops robots that mimic the swarming behavior of birds, fish, and insects. Not to be outdone, electrical and computer engineering students at Drexel University’s Music and Entertainment Technology Laboratory released a video of their autonomous HUBO humanoid robots playing — and singing — a foot-tapping version of the Beatles’ hit “Come Together.” (http://bit.ly/IXADqE) The fabricated four play drums and specially devised percussion instruments called Hubophones. Get set for Hubomania. – TG
FACTOID – Estimated annual economic losses, in dollars, in the year 2100 resulting from the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans. Effects include loss of fishing income and tourism, storms, and sea-level rise. – Source: Stockholm Environment Institute
Raw veggies taste good, but they’re often the source of foodborne diseases. An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in 2006 was linked to bagged spinach, and 5 percent of food-poisoning cases worldwide are caused by green onions. Researchers have long sought to find new, more effective ways to clean produce. The Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology has been working with organic salad producer Earthbound Farm on technology that uses ultrasound during the wash to rid leafy greens of pathogens. High-powered ultrasound waves produce millions of tiny bubbles on the leaf’s surface that burst in microseconds; the process, called cavitation, dislodges germs into the wash. Tests so far look promising, but Earthbound stresses that the technique is not a “kill step,” but merely an adjunct to existing sanitation processes. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Delaware report that they have effectively cleansed green onions of both E. coli and Salmonella enterica pathogens by placing them in commercial pressurizers at up to 5,000 times atmospheric pressure. The pathogens didn’t survive, but the onions did — with taste and color intact. – TG
One potential bizarre side effect of global warming: The woolly mammoth may walk the Earth again, some 10,000 years after becoming extinct. South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation has inked a deal with Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University to work on joint research aimed at cloning the giant mammal, whose bones were discovered with marrow intact when Siberia’s permafrost melted. The plan is to extract somatic cells from the marrow and swap them with the nuclei of elephant egg cells. Sooam’s controversial founder Hwang Woo-Suk claimed to have cloned human embryonic stem cells in 2004, but his resulting fame was short-lived when it became apparent his data were faked. Since then, however, he has successfully cloned the first dog, Snuppy, and gone on to clone cows and coyotes. Re-creating a woolly mammoth from DNA is no Jurassic Park scenario. But it’s close enough to worry Canadian evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar, who sees no scientific reason to clone an extinct species. “Why would you bring them back?” he told CBS News last year. “To put them in a theme park?” – TG
A camera that can see around walls may sound like something Q devised for fictional secret agent James Bond. But the device is real, and its inventors aren’t MI6 boffins but researchers at MIT’s Media Lab. The camera makes use of walls, doors, and floors to reflect light shot from a femtosecond laser, which spits out bursts of photons measured in quadrillionths of a second. The photons bounce around a room and finally re-emerge, where they’re picked up by a detector every few trillionths of a second. By measuring the time it takes photons to reach the detector, the device can figure how far they’ve traveled. By repeating the procedure at different angles and comparing the different times and ways the light hits the detector, a 3-D picture of the room’s geometry emerges. Algorithms that process the data picked up by the sensor can produce images of items or people out of the camera’s line of sight that are blurry but recognizable. Possible applications include helping firefighters search for people in burning buildings or vehicle navigation systems that help drivers negotiate blind turns. 007 would probably find it a handy tool, too. – TG
Clicks and Mortar
Will online courses kill demand for campus experiences? Earlier this year, KnowLabs, a company founded by former Stanford University computer scientist Sebastian Thrun, announced the start of Udacity, an online university offering such free, high-quality courses as Programming a Robotic Car. In March, MIT rolled out a free course on circuits and electronics, the first in a portfolio of self-paced Web offerings in the MITx initiative. And Stanford computer engineering professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller just secured $16 million in venture funds plus partnerships with five leading universities, including Princeton, to expand Coursera, a Web-based portal for top-end courses in subjects from cryptography to game theory. Most offer “certificates of completion.” Thrun saw Udacity’s potential to transform education last year when KnowLabs simultaneously presented the same artificial intelligence course he was teaching to 200 Stanford graduate students—and attracted 160,000 students from 190 countries. Thrun imagines that in 50 years, only 10 institutions worldwide will be delivering higher education. Edward Tenner disagrees. In an Atlantic blog, the noted historian of technology calls Thrun’s AI class a “smashing success” but says online courses will help build the elite schools’ brands and increase on-campus demand. Indeed, Stanford reviewed a record 36,631 applications, up 9 percent from 2011. – TG
A Toyota executive’s lessons on hard-times manufacturing
To Wil James, head of Toyota’s largest American factory, the carmaker’s response to three years of bad news underscores Darwin’s maxim: It’s not the strongest or most intelligent of the species that survives, but the most adaptable.
Times were anything but tough for Toyota when James joined the company in 1987, spurning a mechanical engineering job to become a group leader at its new Kentucky plant. For two decades, business was “up, up, up,” he says. But in 2008, a spike in gasoline prices torpedoed big car sales and showed the folly of Toyota’s emphasis on V8-powered pickups and SUVs. While dealers couldn’t get enough hybrid Prius and Corolla models, production lines for Tundras and Sequoias fell idle at the Indiana plant where James was vice president for quality control. The nationwide recession compounded the misery; car sales sank to their lowest levels since the 1980s, pushing Toyota into the red for the first time in a half century.
Then came a series of safety problems that triggered the recall of millions of vehicles, netted tens of millions in federal fines, and damaged Toyota’s reputation for quality. Floor mats trapping an accelerator sent a Lexus hurtling at 120 miles an hour along a San Diego freeway before it slammed into another vehicle and hit an embankment, killing four people. More negative attention focused on sticky accelerator pedals and a steering malfunction. Barely had these headlines faded than a tsunami in Japan and floods in Thailand cut off parts supplies.
This perfect storm didn’t slow James’s rise. By July 2010, he was “back home” in Georgetown, Ky., this time as president overseeing 7,000 employees and a $5.4 billion, 7.5 million-square-foot facility capable of turning out half a million vehicles a year. As in Indiana, where James had introduced the midsize Highlander SUV, Kentucky needed to adapt. His account of the company’s practical, detail-oriented approach hints at his training at Virginia’s Old Dominion University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology in 1978.
A key rule in both turnarounds was to avoid layoffs, even if assembly lines were down. “While our plants were idle, we got creative,” James told a 2011 IndustryWeek Best Plants conference. As executives took pay cuts, some employees were assigned to other plants. Other “team members” (the nonunion firm doesn’t call them workers) underwent retraining, an impossibility had they been laid off. Community volunteer efforts – cleanup, painting, and general maintenance – offset reduced contributions to local nonprofits. For example, energy and logistics experts devised cost savings for the Scott County, Ky., courthouse and helped city officials streamline trash pickup.
Employee contests generated ways to cut factory costs, including the installation of energy-saving light bulbs throughout the Kentucky plant. Grass-covered lawns were replaced with natural grasses and trees to reduce mowing. Employees also looked for ways to improve their operations. These kaizen (Japanese for “opportunity for improvement”) sessions turned up safer, more efficient ways to put padding on vehicle doors; bumper installations that resulted in fewer scratches; and much less walking to collect parts. Production flexibility “reached a whole new level,” James told the IndustryWeek conference.
Toyota has yet to lick all its problems: An additional 681,500 vehicles were recalled in March. But sales were up 12 percent in February, and profits have rebounded. The company is granting more autonomy to its top North American managers so it can more quickly meet customer needs, James says. And the changing automotive landscape means adaptation must continue. Toyota hopes to introduce hydrogen fuel cells in coming years. Meanwhile, “totally amazing” advances in on-board electronics – bringing directions, stock prices, and sports scores to drivers and passengers – pose an engineering conundrum in planning new vehicles, James says. The challenge: “How do you design today something that will be outdated next year, for a launch in two to three years?”
Mark Matthews is editor of Prism.
For postgraduate researchers, a season of challenge
For me, one of the true joys of academic life has always been the change of pace that summer brings. It has not been, as it is in Porgy and Bess, that the living is easy. Indeed, there has been many a summertime when I worked longer hours on harder problems but without the comic relief of faculty meetings.
When I was in graduate school in Urbana, Illinois, where I had my first real taste of academic freedom, summers initially meant studying foreign languages to satisfy requirements that are now as rare as prices in textbook catalogs. Whereas during the fall and spring semesters I took all of my classes on the engineering end of campus, during the summer I trekked beyond the student union to where French and German were taught — in buildings that housed not laboratories but theaters.
For those of us teaching assistants who were fortunate enough to pass the translation tests, summers next came to mean concentrated work on a research project. It was here that I first learned what it meant to live and breathe a problem daily — and dream of its solution nightly — without the benefit of an answer key, instructor’s manual, or expert to consult. Now we students were expected to be the experts to whom others would come regarding the slice of engineering science that we had carved out for ourselves.
The loneliness of the long-distance runner has been written about, but little has been said about the loneliness of the long-suffering doctoral student. Day after day and night after night, we worked away on problems whose solution seemed then even more elusive than a balanced checkbook. Summer was a time to make progress on a problem that would define us, at least for a while, but progress came slowly and sullenly.
With the end of my research in sight, summer came to mean the time to write up the dissertation and also write up papers based on it. I had a sense of urgency to submit my first paper before someone else might submit something similar enough to make all of my work null and void. After all, what I was working on was pushing the frontier of my field, something other graduate students were doing also. And the field was somewhat crowded.
Fortunately, I completed and submitted my first refereed-journal article just in time. Barely weeks after it was accepted for publication, my adviser received a manuscript to review for another journal. He had to tell the editor that our article in press covered essentially the same ground.
Becoming young faculty members brought new summer pressures, at first mostly centered on writing proposals for research extending our dissertation work. Soon, we were advised to break away from that and come up with fresh ideas. When we were fortunate enough to get some of those funded, summer was often the time of year when the serious research promised in the proposals had to be done.
Summer also is, or should be, a time for reflection. Where have we been and where are we going, not only with our research but also with our teaching? Summer is a time to take stock and, on the eve of the new academic year, to make resolutions.
Nonacademic friends and relatives envy us our “summers off,” but that’s probably because they do not appreciate how busy our summers actually are. And they are short, as we realize in early August, when the new semester looms like a massive homework assignment. There are syllabi to organize and lectures to prepare. Little time is left for doing research or writing up results. That has to wait for next summer.
Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. His latest book is To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure.
Social factors affect who gets the best chance to learn.
Engineering is not a solo activity. Most work is done in teams of people, bringing together their various technical skills in productive ways to create something. That means we should get our students working in teams as early and as often as possible, right? Maybe not.
When we put our first-year students into teams and ask them to build something, what happens? Well, pretty much what would happen if they were professionals: Based on their skill sets, they divide up the tasks so that everyone works on something he or she is most qualified to do, thereby maximizing what the team can accomplish. The outcome, they know, is almost certainly what they’ll be graded on. But here’s the problem: From a learning standpoint, this approach misses the mark. Our engineering students aren’t the A-Team. They’re assigned the project as a learning exercise. If all the students do what they are best at, there’s a good chance they’ll end up minimizing what the team learns.
It’s actually even worse than that because, most likely, they aren’t assigning tasks based on who has the skills. They are almost certainly dividing them up based on who thinks they have the skills – what psychologists call self-efficacy. And while their self-efficacy for a given task depends in part on whether they’ve done it before, it also depends on whether they’ve had role models or received social affirmation of their abilities. That means women, underrepresented minorities, or students who are the first in their family to go to college are more likely to have lower self-efficacy than their majority-group peers. And if these students don’t get the same opportunity to do the engineering work – and have what’s called a mastery experience – they are likely to fall even further behind in self-efficacy compared with their classmates. Thus, if we just ask students to form teams and divide up tasks, we might be setting up our most vulnerable students to be the victims of a vicious cycle.
This isn’t just hypothetical. Here at Olin College, when students were asked to report what they worked on for their first-year project course, men were more likely to have done technical tasks, like creating CAD models or working on a prototype. Women were more likely to report doing tasks like project management or preparing for presentations. Research at MIT by Barbara Masi, now director of assessment at the University of Rochester’s College of Arts, Science and Engineering, found that male students showed a higher increase in self-efficacy than women after taking first-year project courses.
How do we address this? One approach is to focus on individual work early in the curriculum, ensuring that students develop their own skills and self-efficacy before they start interacting in teams. Another approach is to structure team activities differently. My colleagues took the gender breakdown of activities data and showed it to students. That prompted one woman to respond, “I didn’t come to Olin to make the coffee!” Every year since then, they’ve asked students to think about what they want to learn in the course, to share these learning objectives with their teammates, and then come up with a project plan that reflects each member’s goals. Part of their grade is based on how well these goals are met. A third approach, for courses with multiple smaller projects, is to require students to rotate as “project manager.”
Most engineering schools have a senior design project that requires students to work in teams. We can’t just assume that they’ll have picked up the communication skills, teaming ability, and self-efficacy that they need to do this on their own. If we want our students to be effective in teams, we need to provide them the same opportunities to learn and practice those skills that they get for technical content.
Debbie Chachra is an associate professor of materials science at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. She does research, speaks, and consults on engineering education and the student experience. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter as @debcha.
We’re Ready − Is the Country?
Beyond recruitment and retention, training more engineers will take money.
By Don P. Giddens
Does the United States need more engineers and engineering technologists? We’ve seen a variety of opinions on this topic, with some claiming that market forces will control the needed number and others asserting that “more is better.” Important nuances come into play, including concern that an aging engineering workforce in certain fields will soon contribute to a decline in experienced engineers; the observation that many who are educated in engineering choose to move into other careers, such as law, medicine, and business; and the argument that engineering ought to be considered a liberal education for the 21st century. Wherever you stand in this argument, there is an undeniable fact: It takes many years to “produce” an engineering graduate. Engineers and engineering technologists do not just suddenly appear whenever the markets are in need, any more than new power plants suddenly appear when energy requirements increase. And while Americans resist the idea of centralized planning (in contrast to some other nations), it is imperative that we take a long-range view of “how many” engineers are needed for innovation, economic well-being, and having an informed citizenry.
Recognizing the importance of technology and engineering to the economy, President Obama has recently set forth two related objectives: 10,000 new American engineers every year, and 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade. Let’s assume that these are laudable goals – how will we do this given the low interest in engineering on the part of young people and the economic climate in which states are paring education budgets? We as engineering educators probably can have only an indirect effect on the latter factor by our votes at the ballot box and efforts to influence the public-policy debate. However, we can have a direct impact on the overall output from our schools and colleges.
Increasing the number of engineering graduates begins early and has at least four components – recruitment, retention, successful graduation, and employment. ASEE and our members are active in each of these important areas.
ASEE has invested in recruitment through our involvement with K-12 initiatives, including eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), our K-12 and Pre-College Division, and the efforts of numerous deans and colleges of engineering across the United States. We also offer educational programs and workshops for K-12 teachers, and our new Student Division should have an impact on increasing the quantity and quality of STEM teachers at all levels.
At first glance, a simple calculation based on national averages for retention of engineering students would say that we can hit a target of 10,000 new engineering graduates per year simply through increasing retention rates. In 2010, with funds from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, ASEE piloted a survey of 27 schools – 22 public and 5 private – to collect in-depth data on retention. The aggregate four-year graduation rate for freshman cohorts running from 2001 to 2006 reported by the 22 public schools was 22.4 percent and by the five private schools was 48 percent. The eight-year graduation rate of the 2001 entering class of public school students was 56.6 percent, while it was 71 percent in the private schools. The project also revealed significant challenges in the definition of retention data, the ability of some schools to track retention, and the large variation in retention metrics among public and private institutions. It is somewhat simplistic to use only retention data as a measure of success in engineering education, of course, but it is clear that we should be doing a better job of retaining students who enter college with an expressed interest in being engineers. ASEE is currently engaged in a follow-up project, initially funded by the Sloan Foundation, to collect data from as many of the 380 U.S. engineering programs as possible with the objective of developing thoughtful metrics and determining best practices that will help all programs improve in this important area. ASEE’s role, and especially that of engineering deans, was recently recognized by President Obama and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness at a White House reception.
We are all working to prepare students for successful lives as educated human beings, but of course a critical element of this is gainful and satisfying employment upon graduation. Here is where the ASEE Corporate Member Council has an important role. These members represent small and large companies that have a vested interest in the quality and quantity of engineering and engineering technology graduates. They want students to have real-world, relevant experiences in their education, and they also want graduates to have – in addition to rigorous engineering fundamentals – broader traits such as the ability to work in teams, good communication skills, and a strong sense of ethics. The CMC has several initiatives that help form linkages among students, faculty, and corporations.
But let me return to the issue of investments in education. What are the costs of graduating 10,000 more engineers and 10,000 more STEM teachers each year? While some leverage can be gained from existing infrastructure, the incremental costs would be significant, requiring further investments in faculty, information technology, classrooms, and laboratories. Are we as a nation willing to do this? Would the nation realize a good return on investment? I think the answer to the latter is yes; I hope the answer to the former is yes, also.
Don P. Giddens is president of ASEE.
2012 ELECTION RESULTS
Kenneth F. Galloway
ASEE members elected Kenneth F. Galloway to serve as ASEE president-elect for 2012-2013. Galloway is dean of the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University and professor of electrical engineering. He will assume the position of ASEE president-elect at the 2012 Annual Conference and become president the following year.
Full election results for all ASEE offices, as well as proposed constitutional amendments, are as follows:
Full election results for all ASEE offices are as follows:
Kenneth F. Galloway (719 votes)
Dean, School of Engineering
Professor, Electrical Engineering
Letha A. Hammon (310 votes)
Ethics and Compliance Officer
Program Manager, Records Management
Vice President, Member Affairs
Stephanie Farrell (659 votes)
Chemical Engineering Department
Dennis J. Fallon (361 votes)
Citadel Distinguished Professor
of Engineering EducationCivil and Environmental Engineering Department
Chair-Elect, Zone I
Suzanne Keilson (129 votes)
Da Vinci Charter High Schools
Navarun Gupta (119 votes)
Electrical Engineering Department
University of Bridgeport
Chair-Elect, Zone III
Charles McIntyre (102 votes)
Graduate Program Coordinator
Department of Construction Management and Engineering
North Dakota State University
Kenneth W. Van Treuren (95 votes)
Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development
Professor, Mechanical Engineering
ASEE Constitutional Amendments
Accept: 915 votes
Reject: 79 votes
ASEE Audit Committee
Accept: 972 votes
Reject: 16 votes
Vice President, External Relations
Accept: 959 votes
Reject: 28 votes
Proposed Correction to Article III, Section 7 – Organization and Officers
Accept: 969 votes
Reject: 20 votes
Call for Nominations
The ASEE Nominating Committee, chaired by Immediate Past President Renata S. Engel, requests member participation in nominating board officers for the 2013 ASEE elections. Officers to be nominated for Society-wide positions are: President-Elect, Vice President of Finance, Vice President External Relations, and Chairs of Professional Interest Councils I, IV, and V.
All nominees must be individual members or institutional member representatives of ASEE at the time of nomination and must maintain ASEE membership during their term of office. Nominating Committee members are not eligible for nomination. The slate of candidates selected by the committee will not exceed two candidates per office.
Candidates for President-Elect must be active members who have served or are serving on the Board of Directors. Candidates for Vice President External Relations shall be chosen from those members of the Society who have previously served on the Board of Directors or from the present members of the Board of Directors.
Candidates for Chair of the Engineering Deans Council, Chair of the Corporate Member Council, and Chair-Elect for Zone I and Zone III will be nominated and selected by their respective councils and zones, as the ASEE Constitution stipulates.
For each proposed candidate for a Society-wide office, submit a biographical sketch of fewer than 400 words that documents career contributions, ASEE offices held, awards and recognitions received, and educational background. Include comments on leadership qualities, ability to cooperate with others to achieve objectives, and willingness to serve if elected. A listing of members who meet constitutional eligibility requirements for the offices of President-Elect and Vice President External Relations is available from the Executive Director’s office at ASEE headquarters.
Send nominations in writing, marked confidential, by May 15. For nominations for the office of President-Elect, please include an advocacy statement. Mail nominations to Renata S. Engel, Chair, ASEE Nominating Committee, ASEE, 1818 N Street, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036.
ASEE Constitutional Amendments
Members voted to approve the following changes to the ASEE Constitution and Bylaws:
1. DUES (Article II: Membership and Article V: Section 1 and Section 2)
The approved amendment removes language listing specific dollar amounts so that the ASEE Constitution and Bylaws do not have to be changed every time dues change. This aligns ASEE’s policies with standard practices of similar professional STEM organizations such as ASME and IEEE, all of which allow their boards to set dues and do not set specific dues values or limits in their constitution or bylaws. The measure will enable the Board to lead and manage ASEE so that it serves its members and the profession in a financially responsible and cost-effective manner. The changes were informed by feedback from various ASEE constituencies, including the ASEE staff and Board of Directors, as well as best practices of other professional STEM organizations.
2. ASEE AUDIT COMMITTEE (Article III: Organization and Officers – Section 18)
ASEE periodically updates its policies and procedures to be in line with contemporary operating practices for nonprofit organizations. One element many have adopted since the 2002 enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is the formation of an audit committee, with distinct duties separate from the finance committee. While duties vary, in general, audit committees are recognized for providing a valuable link between a governing board and independent auditors, monitoring financial reporting practices, and reviewing the adequacy of policies and procedures related to the Board and employees, including those related to conflict of interest.
During the past decade, the number of employees at ASEE has grown in response to a wide array of projects, many of which are supported by federal funding. The annual budget has increased significantly, primarily due to federally funded fellowships that are administered by ASEE. Sponsorships of events and initiatives, and gifts and endowments for Society awards, have also been on the rise. Given ASEE’s increasing complexity, activity, and accountability, the Board of Directors endorsed the creation and formal articulation of an Audit Committee in ASEE’s Constitution. The measure will strengthen the Board’s ability to provide effective governance and fulfill its fiduciary responsibility. The Finance Committee will continue to have responsibility for the financial decisions of the organization, whereas the Audit Committee will focus its activities on monitoring financial reporting practices, identifying risks, reviewing adequacy of and adherence to policies, approving external auditor appointments, receiving auditor reports and management responses, and communicating to the Board of Directors. Additionally, the Audit Committee shall receive and investigate written allegations regarding violation of ASEE policies by ASEE members or staff.
3. VICE PRESIDENT EXTERNAL RELATIONS (Article III: Organization and Officers – Section 13, and Article IV: Election and Succession of Officers – Section 4)
These amendments adjust eligibility requirements to reflect the position’s broader duties. Before 2008, the main responsibility of the Vice President Public Affairs (now Vice President External Relations) was to facilitate the Projects Board in the oversight of the Society’s externally funded projects. In recent years, responsibilities have expanded to include such areas as publications and international activities. The Constitution was amended in 2008 to reflect this broader role by changing the name of the position to Vice President External Relations. A requirement for candidates to have served two years on the Project Board is inconsistent with those expanded duties and unnecessarily limits the pool of eligible candidates. In fact, the experience of having previously served on the Board of Directors provides more relevant preparation to fulfill the duties of this office. These amendments reflect that change.
4. PROPOSED CORRECTION TO ARTICLE III, SECTION 7 (Article III: Organization and Officers – Section 7)
In 2011, the ASEE membership voted to amend the ASEE Constitution to specify a three-year term for the Chairs of the Professional Interest Councils. This change from a two-year term does not apply to the Chairs of the Institutional Councils or the Geographic Zone Councils. This amendment corrects an inconsistency between this section and Article IV, Section 2.
THE RIGHT KIND OF INNOVATION
An ASEE report offers a guide for changing the engineering education culture.
From first-year design projects to industry-university partnerships, America’s engineering community has a rich history of educational improvement and innovation. Yet our institutions still struggle to attract, retain, and graduate a diverse talent pool. Which raises the question: What actions and support do faculty need if they are to equip students with the knowledge and skills to tackle the world’s urgent problems without fundamentally restructuring the enterprise?
Leah Jamieson, dean of Purdue University’s engineering school, and Georgia Institute of Technology Vice Provost Jack Lohmann, recently retired, have spent years leading an ASEE initiative exploring this “grand challenge” and developing a framework for changing the culture. Their much-anticipated final report, “Innovation with Impact: Creating a Culture for Scholarly and Systematic Innovation in Engineering Education,” distills conversations and research involving hundreds of engineering educators into a framework for action. The seven broad recommendations include creating career-long professional development programs in teaching and learning; expanding collaborations between engineering and other disciplines, particularly the learning and social sciences, as well as with K-12 and community colleges; and continuing to make engineering programs more engaging, relevant, and welcoming through entrepreneurial, international, and other experiences. An appendix breaks this broad list into 70 specific steps for engineering faculty, deans, department chairs, professional societies, industry, and accrediting agencies.
The point, stress Jamieson and Lohmann, is that engineering doesn’t just need more educational innovations, but research-informed innovations that have a significant impact on student performance. In essence, engineering education must apply to pedagogy and practice the same design process that drives continuous technological improvements. This time-tested model, which faculty routinely employ in their disciplines, remains “largely untapped” in engineering education. Shift this practice, the scholars argue, and the culture will shift as well.
The report comes at a critical juncture. President Obama has called on colleges to graduate 10,000 more engineers annually and has made improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education a top national priority. Despite their importance to American economic competitiveness, however, engineering and engineering technology account for only 5 percent of some 1.6 million bachelor’s degrees awarded annually. And lack of diversity among graduates remains a problem.
Innovation with Impact draws on feedback and an extensive survey of deans, department chairs, and committees from 110 departments at 72 colleges that covers current views and practice in teaching and learning, faculty preparation and engagement, and infrastructure and support for engineering education innovation. As Jamieson and Lohmann discovered, educational breakthroughs fall prey to the same “valley of death” that often prevents technological breakthroughs from reaching the marketplace. Unlike industry, however, engineering education does not recognize innovation in its reward system. By raising awareness of “the considerable educational infrastructure that already exists, both within and outside engineering,” as well as the “substantive body” of proven principles in teaching and learning, educators can begin to improve practice. The aim: for U.S. engineering education to “have a ‘seat at the table’ alongside engineering research in advancing the national capacity for innovation.”
The report recommends cross-campus collaborations that focus on “the formation of engineers rather than on responsibilities for delivering instruction to engineering students,” and deploying curricula and assessment that students see as “personally rewarding, socially relevant, and designed to help them succeed.” Besides suggesting entrepreneurial or international experiences, it urges more engagement with faculties in other disciplines, noting that only 15.6 percent of respondents said they routinely collaborated with education and psychology faculties. Moreover, there needs to be “significant socialization” of faculty and students “accustomed to less active, more traditional instructional methods.” Faculty must also accept the need to collaborate with secondary schools and community colleges. If engineering educators are to turn out 10,000 more graduates per year, write Jamieson and Lohmann, “faculty need to engage a broader population of stakeholders.” Otherwise, their innovations won’t be “designed for or reflect the kind of broad diversity of people and talents needed for the U.S. engineering profession.”
Mary Lord is deputy editor of Prism.
2012 ASEE ANNUAL CONFERENCE
June 10-13, 2012
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center
San Antonio, TX
The ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition is the only conference dedicated to all disciplines of engineering education. It is committed to fostering the exchange of ideas, enhancing teaching methods and curriculum, and providing prime networking opportunities for engineering and technology education stakeholders such as deans, faculty members, and industry and government representatives.
The ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition hosts over 400 technical sessions, with peer-reviewed papers spanning all disciplines of engineering education. Attendees include deans, faculty and researchers, administrators, students, and retirees. Distinguished lectures are featured, starting with the main plenary. In addition to various award receptions and banquets, ASEE hosts a complimentary Meet the Board Forum, providing the opportunity for all registrants to meet with members of the ASEE Board of Directors and discuss current issues in engineering and technology. Other highlights include the Greet the Stars orientation for new ASEE members and first-time conference attendees, the new ASEE Division Mixer, and the Focus on Exhibits Welcome Reception, Brunch, Ice Cream Social, and Lunch.
We look forward to welcoming you to San Antonio!
PREVIEW OF 2013 CONFERENCE Atlanta
Join us in Atlanta for the 120th Annual Conference & Exposition!
June 23 – 26, 2013
The ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition hosts more than 400 technical sessions, with peer-reviewed papers spanning all disciplines of engineering education. Attendees include deans, faculty and researchers, students, and retirees. Distinguished lectures run through- out the conference, starting with the main plenary. In addition to various award receptions and banquets, ASEE hosts a complimentary “Meet the Board Forum,” providing the opportunity for all registrants to meet with members of the ASEE Board of Directors and discuss current issues in engineering and technology. The spouse/guest tours help make the conference an event for the entire family. Other highlights include the “Greet the Stars” orientation for new ASEE members and first-time conference attendees, the ASEE Division Mixer, the “Focus on Exhibits” Happy Hour, and Brunch. The 2013 conference will be in Atlanta. We look forward to welcoming you there.
ALL DIVISIONS ARE ‘PUBLISH TO PRESENT’
In order to strengthen the quality of conference proceedings, the ASEE Board of Directors has voted on a policy of “publish to present” at the ASEE annual conference. This policy, which requires all conference papers and presentations to be peer reviewed, seeks to ensure that intellectual activity by faculty and staff receives appropriate professional recognition.
In addition to Publish to Present sessions, since the 2011 ASEE annual conference, divisions may submit Panel sessions. To submit a Panel session, divisions are asked to provide white papers (extended abstracts) of no more than four pages consisting of two pages of session description and two pages of bios. The PIC chairs will review the Panel sessions submitted and determine their viability to the conference. (Please check the appropriate field/column for submitting a Panel session through the new ASEE paper submission system.)
The process the submission and selection of ASEE annual conference papers is as follows: Once authors have submitted abstracts of their papers, these submissions will be reviewed and evaluated. Authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to submit a full-paper draft to be reviewed by at least three engineering educators. A draft paper may be accepted as submitted, accepted with minor changes or major changes, or rejected. If a paper requiring major changes is resubmitted, the author will be asked to provide an explanation to the division program chair as to how the paper revision has addressed the reviewers’ concerns. The division chair may then decide to accept or reject the paper.
Papers may be selected to present through a poster session, rather than through the lecture format of the technical sessions. Authors will be notified by their program chair. ASEE poster sessions will now showcase authors of accepted papers who have selected this format, or those papers that have been assigned as a poster because of lack of space in the technical sessions. Exceptions to the publish-to-present requirement include invited speakers and panels. Divisions may also designate one of their technical sessions as a “panel” of speakers.
The presentation of research and program findings within a conference setting provides a valuable means of exchanging information and ideas. While the majority of papers presented at the ASEE annual conference already undergo review at the abstract, draft, and final paper stage, the Board feels confident that a rigorous process of review will safeguard the quality of all paper presentations and ensure the prestige and reputation of this important conference.
2013 ASEE ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND EXPOSITION CALL FOR PAPERS
DIVISIONS ACCEPTING ABSTRACTS FOR 2013:
Aerospace Engineering Division
Architectural Engineering Division
Biological & Agricultural Engineering Division
Biomedical Engineering Division
Chemical Engineering Division
Civil Engineering Division
College Industry Partnerships Division
Community Engagement in Engineering Education Constituent Committee
Computers in Education Division
Computing & Information Technology Division
Construction Engineering Division
Continuing Professional Development Division
Cooperative & Experiential Education Division
Design in Engineering Education Division
Educational Research and Methods Division
Electrical and Computer Engineering Division
Energy Conversion and Conservation Division
Engineering and Public Policy Division
Engineering Design Graphics Division
Engineering Economy Division
Engineering Ethics Division
Engineering Leadership Constituent Committee
Engineering Libraries Division
Engineering Management Division
Engineering Research Council
Engineering Technology Division
Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division
Environmental Engineering Division
Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies Division
First-Year Programs Division
Graduate Studies Division
Industrial Engineering Division
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division
Liberal Education/Engineering in Society Division
Mechanical Engineering Division
Minorities in Engineering Division
Multidisciplinary Engineering Division
New Engineering Educators Division
NSF Grantees Poster Session
Nuclear and Radiological Engineering Division
Ocean and Marine Engineering Division
Physics and Engineering Division
Software Engineering Constituent Committee
Systems Engineering Division
Technological Literacy Division
Two-Year College Division
Women in Engineering Division
Abstract submission opens in early September. Please check the ASEE website for updates.
Build a community, and pay attention to data.
A flood of recent headlines focused on the problems of retaining and graduating sufficient numbers of engineering students to meet national needs. Nearly drowned in the deluge, however, is a key truth: We are making progress. Programs have become more engaging. Retention rates are increasing. And many of the “scattered interventions” identified in the National Academy of Engineering’s 2005 report on engineering education have taken root at institutions as diverse as Notre Dame, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Olin College, Northwestern University, and the University of Southern California.
At USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, for example, graduation rates have always exceeded national norms — though, until recently, not by much. Since 2005, however, the share of Viterbi freshmen returning to continue their sophomore year in engineering has been well above 90 percent, and the rate continues to rise. For international undergraduates, the return rate has hit 100 percent some years. The six-year graduation rate for USC undergraduates starting in the Viterbi School stands at 88 percent and is on track to surpass the university’s 90 percent rate.
It helps that the Viterbi School has access to the best students in a very strong pool of USC undergraduates. One of our past mistakes was to assume that this necessary condition was also sufficient to ensure undergraduate success among engineering students. It is not.
Viterbi students now begin their USC careers in Freshman Academies — hands-on, topical, substantive, project-oriented, team-based experiences that engage students while providing an immediate, macro-level- view of engineering. The instructors are all tenure-track faculty, and half are female — a factor that resonates with all students, not just the 28 percent who are Viterbi women. Upper-division undergraduates serve as course mentors. The key element of the first-year experience, however, involves building a community around engineering. Doing so creates a genuine cohort, which can develop coping skills that individuals cannot. This is particularly important in a complex metropolitan environment like Los Angeles as well as on our campus, where 55 percent of Viterbi freshmen arrive from outside California and 13 percent from abroad.
Nationwide, the jury is in on first-year experience programs. Such programs must be in place to help new undergraduates simultaneously adjust and perform. The Viterbi School’s Freshman Year Excellence program includes, among other features, a series of “spotlight” presentations on the engineering professions in which young alumni explain what graduates need to understand about their fields. Undergraduates are encouraged to “explore, succeed, and connect.” We are in the process of extending the experience to the sophomore year.
The same social changes that motivate helicopter parents have created freshmen who are uniquely open to advising. Viterbi freshmen are monitored and advised relentlessly. Enabling this effort is a key university-wide undergraduate advisement database that the Viterbi School uses aggressively with its own students. Faculty members are strongly urged to report midterm grades for undergraduates, and most do. Early detection of performance problems draws an advisement response from staff members who are specifically dedicated to retention. Students are made to understand that unwillingness to accept minor, early adjustments often leads to larger problems later and that a capacity to adjust is a form of competitive advantage.
Some interventions are external, such as providing supplemental instruction. In many foundational, traditionally difficult courses, Viterbi upper-division undergraduates are hired to sit in on lectures and then lead weekly, voluntary discussions. The mathematics, biology, and chemistry departments have followed suit, which has been very helpful. Physics is the next target.
If there is a magic bullet or condition for colleges to reach their desired retention rates, it may lie in using data to drive decisions about students, faculty, and curricula. Developing the means to compile the right data, learning to analyze information in a timely way, and deciding on a course of action necessitate investing in systems and people. It is money well spent.
James E. Moore II is a professor of industrial and systems engineering and vice dean for academic programs in the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering. Louise Yates is senior associate dean for admissions and student affairs.