Category Archives: Engineering

June 23, 2010, 6:00 pm

Just so you'd know

…I’m all done with the ASEE and headed off on vacation in nearby Holiday World. Whatever it is I’ve left out about ASEE, I hope to fill in once I’m back home. If there’s something specific you’d like to know about what I’ve seen here, let me know in the comments.

June 23, 2010, 7:00 am

Funniest remark of the ASEE so far

…goes to Robert Grondin of Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus, who made this remark in his talk in the Liberal Education for 21st Century Engineering session:

We do projects at the beginning of the course, because projects are fun, and we want to fool students into thinking that engineering is fun.

This was apropos of how engineering curricula usually incorporate projects — either at the beginning of the curricula via a freshman design course, or at the end via a senior design course, or both. But you can pretty much substitute any discipline and get the way we often think about how projects fit into the curriculum, right?

Prof. Grondin, on the other hand, has designed a generic Engineering degree — not Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or whatnot… just Engineering — for ASU Polytechnic that requires only 20 hours of engineering coursework beyond the…

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June 21, 2010, 6:21 pm

What (some) engineers think about liberal education

I’m currently at the American Society for Engineering Education conference and symposium in Louisville. There is a lot to process as I attend sessions on student learning, technological literacy, liberal education, and so on, all from the perspective of engineers and engineering educators. There is an entire division (a sort of special interest group) within the ASEE for Liberal Education, and I attended one of their paper sessions this afternoon.

Engineers have a quite different perspective on liberal education than those in “liberal arts” disciplines (by which we usually mean social sciences, arts, humanities) and those of us math/science people working in liberal arts colleges, but surprisingly — at least for the engineers I hung out with in the session — the two conceptions largely agree. We all conceive of liberal education as education that integrates multiple perspectives into …

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April 17, 2010, 6:15 am

Active learning is essential, not optional, for STEM students

This article (1.2 MB, PDF)  by three computer science professors at Miami University (Ohio) is an excellent overview of the concept of the inverted classroom and why it could be the future of all classrooms given the techno-centric nature of Millenials. (I will not say “digital natives”.) The article focuses on using inverted classroom models in software engineering courses. This quote seemed particularly important:

Software engineering is, at its essence, an applied discipline that involves interaction with customers, collaboration with globally distributed developers, and hands-on production of software artifacts. The education of future software engineers is, by necessity, an endeavor that requires students to be active learners. That is, students must gain experience, not in isolation, but in the presence of other learners and under the mentorship of instructors and practitioners. …

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November 11, 2008, 3:08 pm

Links for Tuesday

  • What’s that smell? It could be the latest in biometrics.
  • At Slashdot, a discussion on combining computer science and philosophy. I think that, in general, there is a lot of really interesting yet uncharted territory in the liberal arts arising from combining computing with [fill in humanities subject here].
  • Circuit City hits Chapter 11. The only reason I’m sorry to hear about this is because I know people who work for Circuit City who might lose their jobs. But that’s the only reason. There used to be a time, when I was a teenager, when going to Circuit City to paw over all the tech stuff was fun and exciting. Now when I go, it’s a game of “dodge the irritating service rep”.
  • Some nice tips on getting the most out of Google Scholar. Especially useful if, like me, you’re in a place that doesn’t have access to a lot of technical journals.
  • Mike at Walking Randomly is finding symbolic…

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March 24, 2008, 4:00 pm

The suckage of being an engineering student

A blog post at Wired claims to give the Top 5 Reasons It Sucks to be an Engineering Student. Discussion is in the comments there and at this lively thread at Slashdot. The reasons given at the Wired blog are (in reverse order):

  1. Awful textbooks
  2. Professors are rarely encouraging
  3. Dearth of quality counseling
  4. Other disciplines have inflated grades
  5. Every assignment feels the same

It sounds to me like the blogger at Wired is stereotyping, based on what goes on at large research universities. A student could avoid #2, #3, and maybe #5 just by doing a 3+2 program where the first three years are done at a liberal arts college (…shameless plug alert…).

As for the grade inflation, I admit there’s no solution to this short of doing the right thing and forcing real academic standards on some of the touchiest-feeliest portions of the liberal arts world. But I think that would lead to mass…

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August 22, 2007, 2:49 pm

Waving the waiver wand

Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) is planning to present legislation that would provide free tuition for math and science majors, provided that they work or teach in a related field for at least four years after graduation. The full legislation involves $25 billion in spending on education and includes additional spending on supplementing teacher wages in rural areas. (I’m sure it’s purely coincidence that 99% of the state of Montana is uninhabited rural.)

The goal, according to Sen. Baucus, is “…to better prepare children for school and get more of them into college to make the United States more globally competitive, particularly with countries like China and India”.

Waving the magic money wand at this problem is a typically ineffective political response, and it misunderstands the problem. College students who stay away from math and science majors typically do so for a combination…

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June 14, 2007, 12:18 pm

Engineering a reality check

I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks resurrecting the moribund 3+2 program in engineering that my college is proposing to the local Big University. My goal is to get the agreement with the BU completed and get the program on the books and advertised at our place by the end of the summer. It looked like things were on track to meet these goals this time last summer, but a bunch of things — heavy fall workload, the discovery of major scheduling issues with the proposed course plans, and so on — conspired to drive the whole project to “inactive” status. But I’ve revamped and streamlined the five-year plans, and it looks like we’ll be able to have the thing up and running soon, barring any other weirdness.

I’ve also been advising a student who came in as a freshman last fall wanting to major in Applied Math and then go to grad school to become an electrical engineer, who had…

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November 10, 2006, 5:13 pm

Free beta of MATLAB student version for Intel Macs

MathWorks is giving away free licenses for the beta version of MATLAB for students using Intel-based Macs. For those who don’t know, MATLAB is a computer algebra system, one of the big four along with Mathematica, Maple, and MathCAD. MATLAB tends to be fawned over highly favored by engineers for some reason.

Again: The software being given away works only on Intel Macs, and the MathWorks folks are pretty serious about it being available only to students, unfortunately (for me). Erica at TUAW notes: “The beta does not include a stipend for psychotherapy bills induced by the use of the software.”

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October 19, 2006, 12:20 pm

Fall Break overview

Fall Break is upon us, as is fall itself with rainy, cool weather today. It’s a break, but a full one:

  • This is the first day in over six weeks that I have had substantive time to work on the dual-degree engineering program. The deadline for curriculum proposals is coming up shortly and the thing needs to get done. I think I’ll make it. Some tweaking needs to be done: since we offer Calculus III only once every two years, students who want to do engineering but who start the program in even-numbered years can’t take it until they are juniors, which puts them a year behind in the engineering program. I’ve got a workaround right now for that, but it’s not pretty. So I am lobbying my department and dean to have Calculus III offered every year, like a normal math department would do.
  • This semester has been kicking my rear since about day 3 and hasn’t stopped. I have 14 hours’ of…

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