Thoughts on the Future of Engineering Education

Kristina M. Johnson, Professor and Dean Pratt School of Engineering Duke University October 10, 2003

Relevant Articles and Books

Mission of the University, Jose Ortega y Gasset, 1944, Princeton Press, NJ “Education for the Profession Formerly Known as Engineering”, Chronicle on Higher Education, Rosalind Williams 1/24/03 Cat’s Paws and Catapults, Steven Vogel, 1998, New York, London, Norton & Co.

“Mission of the University1”

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Pass on culture and traditional wisdom Train students for the professions Educate researchers and investigators Produce the next generation of leaders

Ortega’s Guiding Ideals

Primary Function is to teach great cultural disciplines:
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Physical scheme of the world – (physics) Fundamental themes of organic life – (biology) Historical processes of humans – (history) Structure and functioning of life – (sociology) Plan for the universe – (philosophy)

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Economic Principle of Scarcity Applies to Education Synthetic, systematic and complete Contribute leadership and skills to better manage our lives University is the students – complemented by the faculty

Principle of Scarcity
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Knowledge to be acquired is out of proportion to the capacity to learn Teach in precisely the proportion as the student is able to learn or unable to learn Select what is necessary for life of student now Reduce further by what can be learned with thoroughness and understanding

“Education for the Profession Formerly Known as ….2”

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Engineering is undergoing an identity crisis Departments have morphed into applied information technology Depts. Fewer faculty make or build things Engineering is diffusing into biology and cyberspace
2

Rosalind Williams, Chonicle on Higher Education, 1/24/03

“The Engineering Professoriate Backlash”
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“Return to practice movement” Exploring large technical systems Engaging industry to support research Curriculum is too technically oriented, needs liberal arts – “hybrid world” Engineering schools are obsolete

2

Rosalind Williams, Chonicle on Higher Education, 1/24/03

“What is Needed”

Hybrid Education Environment – justify and explain approach to problem solving Only way to prepare engineering students to survive in a hybrid world

2

Rosalind Williams, Chonicle on Higher Education, 1/24/03

Implications for Eng. Education

Curriculum is too packed to make room for liberal arts – more technical subjects added, little pruning. First year engineering experience involves teaching fundamentals – calculus, chemistry, physics, biology, writing Senior year involves the first significant design experience Industry takes one to three years to retrain our educated engineers

What do engineers really need to know? – “The employable quartet3”

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Depth in a discipline to contribute leadership Breadth across disciplines Work in teams Possess persuasive oral and written skills – the “hybrid world”

3

IGERT – University of Colorado at Boulder in Optical Science and Engineering, D. Z. Anderson, et al.

Thoughts on Engineering Curriculum Reform

Prune curriculum – replace calculus with matlab, focus physics, chem, biology on the engineering essentials Integrate the “great cultural subjects” into every engineering course – the hybrid world Start Design experience in the first year Reverse the classroom – teach in the laboratory, use white board as needed Prepare professionals, investigators

Comments

Engineers:
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“design under constraint” – Bill Wulf “harness energy and materials in service to society”– David Needham “make things” “model systemic behavior predicted by the action of individual constituents” “generate wealth” – Nick Dinofrio

Comments – cont.

We engineer to understand Nature’s Way, and perhaps more about ourselves. Engineers are not diffusing into biology, it’s the driving force in revealing the complexity of life through application of quantitative ideas and new analytical tools.

Conclusions

Engineering education needs continuous improvement – not obsolete Integration of great cultural subjects Students are the university, complemented by faculty, educated in what they need to know to lead productive and

Implications for Engineering

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