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A Systemic Approach To Global Competency For Engineers

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Preparing Engr Students for International Practice

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Page Count


Page Numbers

11.133.1 - 11.133.12



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Paper Authors

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Juan Lucena Colorado School of Mines


Gary Downey Virginia Tech

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GARY DOWNEY is Professor of Science and Technology Studies and affiliated faculty member in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He is also 2005-2006 Boeing Company Senior Fellow in Engineering Education at the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and was keynote lecturer on the engineer as problem definer at the 7th World Congress of Chemical Engineering at Glasgow, Scotland. Trained as a mechanical engineer (B.S. Lehigh U 1974) and cultural anthropologist (Ph.D. U Chicago 1981), he is winner of Virginia Tech's 1997 Diggs Teaching Scholar Award for scholarship in teaching, 2003 XCaliber Award for instructional technology, and 2004 William E. Wine Award for career excellence in teaching. He is author of The Machine in Me: An Anthropologist Sits Among Computer Engineers (Routledge 1998) and co-developer of Engineering Cultures® multimedia courseware.

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A Systemic Approach to Global Competency for Engineers Juan Lucena, Gary Downey Colorado School of Mines/Virginia Tech

Abstract The purpose of this paper is to outline a systemic approach to global competency for engineers. Using quiz questions used in our Engineering Cultures course as a pathway into the problem of global competency, the paper begins by introducing the problem and briefly summarizing the learning criterion and learning outcomes for global competency presented in a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Engineering Education. That criterion calls attention to the importance of problem definition in engineering work. Building on the main elements of and lessons learned by NSF-sponsored systemic reform efforts in engineering education in place since 1990s, this paper outlines in detail the following aspects of systemic reform for global competency: 1) unifying visions and goals, including high standards for learning expected from all students; 2) a restructured system of governance and resource allocation, including a proposed new ABET criterion for global competency; and 3) alignment among all parts of the system, including hiring practices, modifications to engineering science and elective courses and textbooks, and accountability mechanisms. After reviewing several approaches to global competency, the paper concludes by asserting that “the ultimate success of methods for achieving global competency will depend both upon their integration across the full range of the engineering curriculum, including in engineering science courses, and upon widespread acceptance among engineering educators of the importance of giving as much weight and time to problem definition as is currently given to problem solving.”

Introduction We begin with a short quiz on problem definition in engineering. The quiz consists of two questions, one on international differences in what is emphasized in engineering work and one on international differences in what counts as engineers. All are true. The first is an example from World War II. During the summer of 1940, British freighters were sinking, victims of Nazi U-boats. Doubting its survival, the U.K. sent a purchasing commission to U.S. shipyards. A deal was quickly reached, but then all progress came to a stop. To the commissioners’ dismay, their ship plans proved meaningless to American engineers, workers, and managers. The entire set of drawings had to be redrafted and hundreds of additional drawings were needed before work could begin on building the ships that would help save the war for Britain. Explain. Second, in ABET criteria 3a-3k, the ability to apply math and science while understanding professional responsibility is first of the eleven criteria, while understanding of ethics is sixth and understanding of global, societal, environmental and economic issues is eighth. In contrast, in the eight criteria established by JABEE, the Japanese Board for Engineering Education, the ability to apply math and science is third, while an understanding of “social responsibilities” is second and the top position is held by the ability to “consider . . . issues from a global and multilateral viewpoint.” Explain

Lucena, J., & Downey, G. (2006, June), A Systemic Approach To Global Competency For Engineers Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1308

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015