Category Archives: Engineering

September 26, 2006, 11:52 am

Georgia Tech’s new take on teaching computer science

It’s no secret that student enrollment in computer science has taken a sever downturn since the mid-90′s. Georgia Tech is hoping to address this problem by completely redoing the way in which computer science is taught at the university:

Fewer and fewer freshmen have been expressing interest in computer science. Some colleges have thrown up their hands, and pulled back on programs. Others have pushed to expand specialized fields — such as video gaming.

The Georgia Institute of Technology is today unveiling what some experts believe is a much broader approach to the problem. The institute has abolished the core curriculum for computer science undergraduates — a series of courses in hardware and software design, electrical engineering and mathematics. These courses, in various forms, have been the backbone of the computer science curriculum not just at Georgia Tech but at most…

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August 23, 2006, 9:16 pm

Confessions of a curriculum geek

Now that we’re just days away from the start of the new semester, I am seeing more and more of my colleagues who disappeared for the summer to various undisclosed locations. When they asked me what I did over the summer, and I tell them I split my time between teaching calculus and designing a dual-degree engineering major, they have all been very surprised. And when they see just how far along the engineering program has come — from vitrually nothing at the end of the previous school year to nearly ready to implement now — they are kind of shocked. My dean today stopped me and congratulated me on the work I did, and I said it was no problem because it was fun. "You had fun doing this?" he said. Yes, I admit it — I’m a curriculum geek.

Why has this project been so much fun for me? I think it’s because from the moment the idea surfaced, nearly a year ago, I had an idea of what the end…

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August 22, 2006, 3:38 pm

Scenes from the week before classes start

Busy, busy, busy:

  • I spent most of Monday morning with the Big University representative, ironing out five-year plans and articulation agreements for the proposed dual-degree engineering program. They liked what they saw, and I didn’t make any bone-headed omissions or mistakes in the plans I drew up that killed the whole idea. Next up: Submit a curriculum proposal to create a new track in our Applied Math major for the engineering students to follow; fix mistakes and issues in the five-year plans; and start the marketing process.
  • I spent the majority of Sunday night prior to this meeting either unable to sleep because of insomnia or unable to sleep because of a 2-year old having a combination of nightmares and tooth pain. I tried to confine my yawning to times when the Big University person was out of the room.
  • After a 3-hour meeting going over the fine points of credit…

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August 1, 2006, 2:09 pm

Update on the engineering dual-degree programs

Today I completed drafts of five-year programs for each of the three dual-degree engineering programs I am charged with managing. These are the product of two months of studying the Big University’s course catalog in general and their engineering department(s) in particular; researching course credit transfer histories; wheeling and dealing with the registrar’s office; episodic panicked meetings with said registrar over possibly catastrophic course conflicts; numerous obsequious emails to the engineering program director at the Big University; and lots of Advil. I think we’ve got something that will basically work, and I got it done by my own personal deadline of August 1, so I’m pretty happy.

Students in these programs will complete two degrees over the course of five years — a B.A. in Applied Mathematics with an “Integrated Sciences” emphasis from us, and a B.S.E. in either…

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July 26, 2006, 1:06 pm

The leak in the science pipeline: It’s the culture, stupid!

After spending most of yesterday hammering out five-year plans for the dual-degree engineering program I’m in charge of creating, I found this article from InsideHigherEd this morning to be, well, pretty disheartening, in an informative sort of way. The article seeks to understand why a smaller and smaller portion of American college and university students are majoring in math, science, and engineering. This quote in particular is surprising:

Data from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles show that, in 2004, about 9 percent of freshman students nationally planned to major in engineering, and 2 percent planned to major in physical sciences. Those numbers are pretty typical for the last two decades, and what is also typical, according to National Science Foundation data, is that it is not uncommon for fewer than half of those…

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June 28, 2006, 10:26 pm

How do you sell an Engineering major?

The progress in setting up the 3+2 engineering agreement is moving along, slowly. There are lots of variables, lots of constraints, and lots of emails and phone calls that have to come into and out of my office to try and come up with a plan that will actually result in a degree from my college and an engineering degree from the big partner university, in five years. The goal is to have a 5-year plan in a final draft form, with the blessing of the big university on everything, by the end of August so that we can start planning and recruiting the moment school starts back.

Hmm… recruiting. Right. Programs don’t actually function without students enrolled in them. So…how’s that going to work?

I’m concerned that I’m going to spend hundreds of hours on this only to have nobody interested in the program when it’s done. (Or else students who are interested but not really capable — the…

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