Asee peer logo

An Analytical Control System Model Of Undergraduate Engineering Education

Download Paper |


2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Understanding Students: Cognition

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.180.1 - 8.180.21



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

F. Lee Grismore

author page

Dr. Juliet Hurtig

author page

Dr. Barry Farbrother

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1330

An Analytical Control System Model of Undergraduate Engineering Education

F.L. Grismore, Juliet Hurtig, Barry Farbrother Ohio Northern University


Engineering programs over the last two decades have been re-engineered in a vain attempt to increase enrollment but the failure has been dismal. From 1986 to 1996 the total number of university B.S. degrees increased by 18%, while engineering B.S. degree quantity decreased by about 19% 1. We as engineering educators observed this decline and proposed innovative methods for stemming the trend. We suggested that engineering required too much abstract mathematics, too many hours to graduate, was too structured in format, had too little “design”, and required more “real engineering” in the early semesters. Our presidents and academic vice presidents looked at engineering retention figures and suggested that if only our programs were modified to improve retention, all would be well. The problem is that we did those things without noticeable effects. Engineering students may have become “more fulfilled” as some would say and hopefully the quality and ability to work in the environment of the 21st century was improved. But the quantity of B.S. degrees did not go up; it went down.

Since our efforts have not produced the desired increase in B.S. quantity, some have asked if perhaps the problem lies within the K-12 school system. International test scores (TIMMS) show that U.S. students are at levels in Math and Science below all other industrialized countries 2. Students are not being challenged nor taught critical thinking skills. Some would say high school teachers are not sufficiently trained or are assigned courses out of their competency 3. Perhaps the solution to our problem lies in improving the K-12 system.

Our real weakness, however, is that we have never stopped to analyze the problem. We teach our students that the first step in engineering problem solving is to “define the problem”; yet we have not done that ourselves. We have gathered all manner of data and performed a variety of “longitudinal” studies. We have proposed a variety of approaches, but by and large have solved the wrong problems and missed addressing the actual one. Our efforts have been basically futile because we do not understand in detail how the educational system works.

The purpose of this paper is to present the development of an analytical system model that describes the fundamental operation of the B.S. educational system. Once such a model is identified it is then possible to set about analyzing its operation and revealing the relationships that govern the process of producing B.S. graduates. Only then can we define the problem in concrete terms and propose program activities that truly address the need.

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Grismore, F. L., & Hurtig, D. J., & Farbrother, D. B. (2003, June), An Analytical Control System Model Of Undergraduate Engineering Education Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12451

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: © 2003 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