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An International Comparison of Engineering Programs in their Emphases and Professional Skills Development

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Technical Session

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.187.1 - 22.187.11



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Paper Authors


Gül E. Okudan Kremer Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Gul Kremer is an Associate Professor of Engineering Design and Industrial Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. She received her Ph.D. from University of Missouri-Rolla in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering. Her research interests include multi-criteria decision analysis methods applied to improvement of products and systems and enhancing creativity in engineering design settings. Her published work appears in journals such as Journal of Mechanical Design, Journal of Engineering Design, Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, Journal of Engineering Education, European Journal of Engineering Education and Technovation. She is a member of IIE, ASME, and ASEE. She is also a National Research Council-U.S. AFRL Summer Faculty Fellow for the Human Effectiveness Directorate (2002 - 2004), an invited participant of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Frontiers in Engineering Education Symposium (2009), and a Fulbright Scholar to Ireland (2010).

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Mike Murphy Dublin Institute of Technology

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Mike is Director and Dean of the College of Engineering & Built Environment at Dublin Institute of Technology.

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Brian Bowe Dublin Institute of Technology

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An International Comparison of Engineering Programs in Their Emphases and Professional Skills DevelopmentIn the face of grand challenges for engineering [1], several efforts have been undertaken toidentify the vision for what we should expect from our undergraduate engineering students.For example, one of the significant reports [2] indicates that our graduates should aspire “tohave the ingenuity of Lillian Gilbreth, the problem-solving capabilities of Gordon Moore, thescientific insight of Albert Einstein, the creativity of Pablo Picasso, the determination of theWright brothers, the leadership abilities of Bill Gates, the conscience of Eleanor Roosevelt,the vision of Martin Luther King, and the curiosity and wonder of our grandchildren.” Thisstatement implies that not only should our graduates be very well equipped with analyticalskills but also master problem solving and professional skills. Indeed, given the projections[2] that grand challenges will require complex problem solving skills in multi-disciplinaryglobal settings, our graduates will need to develop professional skills to a higher degree.There cannot be one good “problem solving and professional skills attainment” recipe for allto follow, however; our resources, historical evolution as institutions of education, or theidentified emphases are different shaped by our surroundings (e.g., industrial sectors, socio-economic setting, etc.). Further, the admission processes, curricular structures and emphasesmight be different. For example, while in Europe most countries use an entrance exam forplacement of students, in the US, we opt for a more holistic view, and review applicationpackages which are designed not only to convey the test scores but also leadershipaccomplishments. Also, while in terms of credit hours count, engineering students have aboutthe same level of course engagement, most European students will have a much higher levelof engineering courses (~95%) whereas US students will have less (~65%) by the time theybecome engineers. Then, there could be differences in the level and ways we impart problemsolving and professional skills around the world. Despite this though we expect that ourengineering graduates will --at some point in their careers -- work with their internationalpeers in collaborative settings.Prior literature emphasizes the importance and benefit of course level collaborations acrossmultiple countries to provide students with an understanding of working in globalengineering teams. Mostly, these programs involve design problem solving and practice ofprofessional skills (i.e., teamwork, communication, leadership, and communication). Wehave not found, however, an extensive quantitative study, which is designed to show thedifferences in the way students and faculty members perceive how their engineering programis imparting students with problem solving and professional skills. We fill this void in theliterature by replicating the P2P [3] surveys developed as part of an NSF funded work. Withthe replication at hand, we extend the study to enable comparisons across countries. In thispaper, we focus on the replication in Ireland and limit revealing our findings to the problemsolving and professional skill attainment comparisons.As part of the replication, we have collected data from students and faculty in several schoolsof engineering in Ireland, and we compare the results to those collected in the US andhighlight the differences, and also show the differences and similarities of perceptionbetween faculty and students. The questions of attention for this paper focus on topics ofemphases, professional skills, and problem solving, and are provided in the Appendix.Our preliminary results indicate that despite the difference in admissions processes andcurricular structures, there are no significant differences in data across the US and Irishstudent populations in their perceptions.References 1. Grand Challenges for Engineering, National Academy of Engineering,, 2008. 2. The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century, National Academy of Engineering, ISBN-13: 978-0-309-09162-6, 2004. 3. in Engineering: How much do you emphasize the following (little/no emphasis to very strong).Ethical issues in engineering practiceThe importance of life-long learningCurrent workforce and economic trends (globalization, outsourcing, etc.)The value of gender, racial/ethnic, or cultural diversity in engineeringCreativity and innovationEmerging engineering technologiesExamining beliefs and values and how they affect ethical decisionsHow theories are used in engineering practiceMaking explicit connections to knowledge and skills from fields other than engineeringProfessional Skills: How much do you emphasize the following (little/no emphasis to very strong).Professional Skills (knowing codes and standards, being on time, meeting deadlines, etc.)Written and oral communication skillsLeadership skillsWorking effectively in teamsProject management skills (budgeting, monitoring progress, managing people, etc.)Problem Solving: How much do you emphasize the following (little/no emphasis to very strong).Application of math and science to engineering problemsDesigning, conducting, and analyzing data from experimentsUnderstanding how an engineering solution can shape and be shaped by environmental, social,cultural, political, legal, economic, and other considerationsUnderstanding how non-engineering fields can help solve engineering problemsIntegrating knowledge from engineering and other fields to solve engineering problemsSystems thinking (i.e., looking at entire systems rather than individual components)Applying knowledge from other fields to solve an engineering problemDefining a design problemGenerating and evaluating a variety of ideas about how to solve a problemSolving problems from real clients (industry, government, etc.)Producing a product (prototype, programme, simulation, etc.)

Okudan Kremer, G. E., & Murphy, M., & Bowe, B. (2011, June), An International Comparison of Engineering Programs in their Emphases and Professional Skills Development Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17468

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