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Adapting an NSF-Funded Professional Skills Curriculum to Train Engineers in Industry: A Case Study

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Career Advancement Through Engineering Leadership Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development

Page Count

14

DOI

10.18260/1-2--36648

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/36648

Download Count

174

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Paper Authors

biography

Dirk Joel-Luchini Colbry Michigan State University

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Dr. Dirk Colbry is a faculty member in the Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering (CMSE) at Michigan State University. Dr. Colbry earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science and his principle areas of research include machine vision and pattern recognition (specializing in scientific imaging). Dr. Colbry also conducts research in computational education and high performance computing. From 2009 until 2015, Dr. Colbry worked for the Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research (iCER) as a computational consultant and Director of the HPCC. Dr. Colbry collaborates with scientists from multiple disciplines including Engineering, Toxicology, Plant and Soil Sciences, Zoology, Mathematics, Statistics and Biology. Recent projects include research in Image Phenomics; developing a commercially-viable large scale, cloud based image pathology tool; and helping develop methods for measuring the Carbon stored inside of soil. Dr. Colbry has taught a range of courses, including; communication "soft" skills, tools for computational modeling, Numerical Linear Algebra, microprocessors, artificial intelligence, scientific image analysis, compilers, exascale programing, and courses in program and algorithm analysis.

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biography

Katy Luchini-Colbry Michigan State University

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Katy Luchini-Colbry is the Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Services at the College of Engineering at Michigan State University, where she completed degrees in political theory and computer science. A recipient of a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, she earned Ph.D. and M.S.E. in computer science and engineering from the University of Michigan. She has published more than two dozen peer-reviewed works related to her interests in educational technology and enhancing undergraduate education through hands-on learning. Luchini-Colbry is also the Director of the Engineering Futures Program of Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society, which provides interactive seminars on interpersonal communications and problem solving skills for engineering students across the U.S.

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Abstract

This design-focused practice paper presents a case study describing how a training program developed for academic contexts was adapted for use with engineers working in industry. The underlying curriculum is from the NSF-funded CyberAmbassadors program, which developed training in communication, teamwork and leadership skills for participants from academic and research settings. For the case study described here, one module from the CyberAmbassadors project was adapted for engineers working in private industry: “Teaming Up: Effective Group and Meeting Management.” The key objectives were to increase knowledge and practical skills within the company’s engineering organization, focusing specifically on time management as it relates to project and product delivery. We were also interested in examining the results of translating curricula designed for an academic setting into a corporate setting.

Training participants were all from the dedicated engineering department of a US-based location of an international company that provides financial services. The original curriculum was designed for live, in-person training, but was adapted for virtual delivery after the company adopted a 100% remote workforce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The training was conducted in four phases: (1) train-the-trainer to create internal evangelists; (2) train management to build buy-in and provide sponsorship; (3) phased rollout of training to individual members of the engineering department, contemporaneous with (4) specific and intentional opportunities to apply the skills in normal business activities including Joint Architecture Design (JAD) sessions.

Effectiveness was measured through surveys at the engineering management level (before, during, and after training), and through direct discussions with engineering teams who were tracked for four weeks after the training. A number of cultural shifts within the company were observed as direct and indirect outcomes of this training. These include the creation and standardization of a template for meeting agendas; a “grassroots” effort to spread the knowledge and best practices from trained individuals to untrained individuals through informal, peer-to-peer interactions; individuals at varying levels of company hierarchy publicly expressing that they would not attend meetings unless an appropriate agenda was provided in advance; and requests for additional training by management who wanted to increase performance in their employees. As a result of this adaptation from academic to industry training contexts, several key curricular innovations were added back to the original CyberAmbassadors corpus. Examples include a reinterpretation of the separate-but-equal leadership roles within meetings, and the elevation of timekeeper to a controlling leadership role within a meeting.

This case study offers valuable lessons on translating training from academic/research settings to industry, including a description of how the “business case” was developed in order to gain approval for the training and sponsorship from management. Future work includes adapting additional material from the CyberAmbassadors program for applications in a business context, and the continued formal and informal propagation of the current material within the company.

Luchini, M. J., & Cribbs, D. J., & Colbry, D. J., & Luchini-Colbry, K. (2021, July), Adapting an NSF-Funded Professional Skills Curriculum to Train Engineers in Industry: A Case Study Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36648

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