Tag Archives: Engineering

June 25, 2013, 12:04 pm

What math topic do engineering faculty rate as the most important?

did-an-even-math-problem-by-accident-answer-not-in-back-of-bookI’m at the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference right now through Thursday, not presenting this time but keeping the plates spinning as Mathematics Division program chair. This morning’s technical session featured a very interesting talk from Kathy Harper of the Ohio State University. Kathy’s talk, “First Steps in Strengthening the Connections Between Mathematics and Engineering”, was representative of all the talks in this session, but hers focused on a particular set of interesting data: What engineering faculty perceive as the most important mathematics topics for their areas, and the level of competence at which they perceive students to be functioning in those topics.

In Kathy’s study, 77 engineering faculty at OSU responded to a survey that asked them to rate the importance of various mathematical topics on a 5-point scale, with 5 being the…

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May 6, 2013, 8:00 am

Who does screencasting help the most?

5816423791_c3d7250ec0_mLet’s go back to the research paper on screencasting that I first blogged about here. In that post, we saw that students on the study generally watched the screencasts, even without explicit rewards like grades, and the tended to do so strategically. But what about student learning? Did it help?

To answer that question, we have to go back to a previous paper by the authors [PDF]. (That one is in the queue this week to read and blog about.) In that paper, the authors did find a positive correlation between screencast use (which they tracked using stats for the class’ course management system) and overall performance. But – this correlation does not imply causation, and indeed when the data are sliced along various demographic lines, sometimes the students’ performance was better explained by GPA than by screencast use.

I haven’t gotten into that second paper yet, but what …

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June 11, 2012, 4:18 pm

What engineering educators don’t struggle with

I’m attending the American Society of Engineering Education conference and expo this week in San Antonio, and I hope to have some short blog posts from the various sessions and talks I’m attending.

This morning I attended part of a session on model-eliciting activities and the main plenary, which was titled “Keeping it Real” and focused on tying together academia and industry in engineering education. There were lots of good ideas discussed, but if there was one coherent take-away from these talks, it’s that engineers — at least the ones whose focus is on learning and teaching — are a lot further along than mathematicians in education practice.

Granted, my title here is a little overstated. I am not looking at a representative sample of engineers at this conference. These engineers are the ones who care and think the most about effective learning and teaching; I’m sure there are…

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December 7, 2011, 8:41 am

What makes kids want to become engineers?

Many indicators are pointing to a critical shortage of engineers among the current high school generation. What’s the cause of all that? A study (PDF) by the nonprofit organization Change the Equation (with backing from Intel), focusing on 1004 students between the ages of 13 and 18 with computer access, suggests two things: a perception of difficulty coupled with an overall lack of knowledge about what engineering really is in the first place.

The Intel survey showed 63 percent of the students ages 13 to 18 have never considered the career despite having “generally positive opinions of engineers and engineering.” The perception that engineering is difficult also played a part in the lack of job consideration.

But the teens were especially interested when they learned about the potential for engineering to help others, such as saving the Chilean miners who were trapped in 2010,…

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November 8, 2011, 6:52 am

Is math too hard? Or just not interesting enough?

The title of this NY Times article making the rounds in the blogosphere is titled “Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard)”. But it seems like the real reason that 40% of university students today who plan on careers in the STEM disciplines end up changing into other fields or dropping out is only partly about the hardness of the subjects. What are the other parts?  Read this:

But, it turns out, middle and high school students are having most of the fun, building their erector sets and dropping eggs into water to test the first law of motion. The excitement quickly fades as students brush up against the reality of what David E. Goldberg, an emeritus engineering professor, calls “the math-science death march.” Freshmen in college wade through a blizzard of calculus, physics and chemistry in lecture halls with hundreds of other students. And then many wash …

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October 26, 2011, 7:30 am

Michigan engineering students take third place in global solar car competition

Very cool engineering news from another university here in Michigan:

Through a smoldering brush fire, past wind-shearing road trains, across the Australian continent, the University of Michigan’s Quantum was the first American car to finish the World Solar Challenge today. The Solar Car Team placed third overall in the international competition.[...]

After driving for 35 hours and 33 minutes over five days, the U-M team crossed the end-of-timing line in Angle Vale, South Australia at 3:55 p.m. race time (2:25 a.m. U.S. ET). They are spending the night there. In the morning they will drive the remaining 20 miles to the ceremonial finish line in Adelaide’s Victoria Square.

“It was an incredibly close race, especially due to the unexpected elements such as the brush fire which delayed the race, dust storms, major cloud cover at the end of the race, and the ultra reliable cars of …

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September 27, 2011, 4:35 pm

Education as a complex adaptive system?

In the latest issue of the Journal of Engineering Education, there’s a guest editorial by Rick Stephens and Michael Richey, both from The Boeing Company, that describes Boeing’s internal efforts to educate its engineers. Here’s the video abstract:

You’re more likely to associate the name “Boeing” with airplanes than with education, but in fact it turns out that Boeing’s educational portfolio is massive: 7 million hours of instruction to more than 150,000 employees across 45 countries — in 2009 alone! That comes out to about 28,000 hours of instruction per week, which would put Boeing in the league of a mid-sized university in terms of contact hours in the classroom.

But comparing Boeing to traditional educational structures is decidedly not the point of the article. The Boeing people ask: Why is it, after so much has been invested in STEM education research and practice, that…

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August 17, 2010, 4:01 pm

Why change how we teach?

Sometimes when I read or hear discussions of innovation or change in teaching mathematics or other STEM disciplines, whether it’s me or somebody else doing the discussing, inevitably there’s the following response:

What do we need all that change for? After all, calculus [or whatever] hasn’t changed that much in 400 years, has it?

I’m not a historian of mathematics, so I can’t say how much calculus has or hasn’t changed since the times of Newton and Leibniz or even Euler. But I can say that the context in which calculus is situated has changed – utterly. And it’s those changes that surround calculus that are forcing the teaching of calculus (any many other STEM subjects) to change –radically.

What are those changes?

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/brostad/

First, the practical problems that…

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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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