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A General Engineering Minor As A Means To Encourage Technological Literacy

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Teaching Technological Literacy - College Courses and Minors

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.32.1 - 15.32.7



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Paper Authors

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Roy McGrann State University of New York, Binghamton

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A General Engineering Minor as a Means to Encourage Technological Literacy


Technological literacy can be increased by offering a minor in general engineering. A Minor in General Engineering was developed at Binghamton University. This minor was first available in the 2008-09 academic year. The description of the minor states this minor “enables students who are majoring in non-engineering fields to gain an introduction to the engineering design and analysis process.” An outline of the requirements for the minor is presented. The experiences of the first students who participated in the program are described. Also, the challenges encountered in the approval process for this minor are described.


The need for an educated citizenry is recognized as one of the basic requirements of a democratic society. In our increasingly human-built world, this entails a technologically literate citizenry. The goal of technological literacy “is to provide people with the tools to participate intelligently and thoughtfully in the world around them.”1 Included in this participation is an understanding of the human process of technological development: engineering analysis and design.

At the university level, literacy in the areas of reading, mathematics, science, or history is often mandated by “general education” or “distribution” requirements. Regarding technology, these requirements might include an introduction to computers course. Very rarely however is there a requirement for any more general introduction to the process of technology development or engineering. Nonetheless, many engineering schools at larger universities provide courses such as “An Introduction to Engineering” aimed specifically at non-engineering students. As with any course, this involves faculty and supporting resources. An alternative is to use existing courses and offer a minor in general engineering.

A minor in general engineering enables students who are majoring in non-engineering fields to gain an introduction to the engineering design and analysis process. In this paper, a description of the requirements for the minor at Binghamton University is presented. Some discussion of the rationale for the components of the curriculum is given. Next, a description of the experiences and a few comments by the first students who completed the minor are presented. In conclusion, a discussion of challenges to the establishment of the program and how they were dealt with are presented.

Description of the Requirements for the Minor in General Engineering

The minor in general engineering was proposed by faculty in the Engineering Design Division (Freshman Engineering Program) in the 2007-08 academic year. The original intent was to provide the opportunity for students who did not intend to major in one of the engineering disciplines available at the university (bioengineering, computer, electrical, industrial, and mechanical) to learn about engineering and, thus, increase their technological literacy. Three initiatives were considered: (1) institute a BA degree in General Engineering, (2) develop and

McGrann, R. (2010, June), A General Engineering Minor As A Means To Encourage Technological Literacy Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16507

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