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Arts Problem-Solving for Engineering Problem-Solving (APS4EPS): Multi-Modality Skill Building - P-12, College, and the Impact Beyond

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Integrating Liberal Education and Engineering

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Mehmet Vurkac Oregon Institute of Technology

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Mehmet Vurkaç is an associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Renewable Energy (EERE) at Oregon Institute of Technology, where he has also taught courses in critical thinking, percussion, and mathematics.

Vurkaç is on sabbatical at Seattle University, in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, for the academic year 2016–'17.

Vurkaç earned his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering in December 2011 at Portland State University, with research at the confluence of machine learning, information theory, philosophy of science, music information retrieval, and mathematical music theory. His current research areas are engineering education, music information retrieval (DSP and machine learning), music perception, and mathematical music theory.

Prior to tenure track (1994 through 2010), Vurkaç taught in the following academic settings.

1. The Music Department at Whitman College (Sound Synthesis),
2. The Electrical and Computer Engineering at Portland State University (all courses in first- and second-year digital and analog circuits) as an adjunct,
3. Co-teaching as a "grad mentor" in the University Studies program at Portland State University (Popular Culture, African Studies, Renaissance Studies, Environmental Sustainability, and Knowledge, Rationality and Understanding), and assisting several other courses in the same program (such as Global Environmental Change and Healthy People, Healthy Places), and
4. As an adjunct in both Applied Mathematics and Electrical Engineering and Renewable Energy at Oregon Tech.

Vurkaç also served as a rubric and assignment-design specialist for the President’s Assessment Initiative at Portland State University 2002 through 2006, and as assessment coordinator of EERE at Oregon Tech, was the assessment lead for the initial accreditation of the new Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.

Since 2010, Vurkaç has been teaching CMOS Digital-IC Design, Machine Learning, Communication Systems, Electricity and Magnetism, Electronics I and II, Circuits I, II, III, and associated labs, MATLAB, VHDL, DSP Lab, and Introduction to Programming, as well as circuits for non-majors and Honors Humanities.

He is currently pursuing pedagogical research in engineering and the arts and applied research in music information retrieval.

Phone: 503-477-3915
Academic-year e-mail:
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Arts Problem-Solving for Engineering Problem-Solving (APS4EPS): Multi-Modality Skill-Building—P–12, College, and the Impact Beyond

Engineering design involves such elements as problem-solving, team work, concurrent development, and creativity. We can express all of these elements as wide-sense problem-solving. Engineering design, R & D, testing, and education all make frequent use of such problem-solving. Engineering, furthermore, ultimately deals with economic and social factors.

Less well known are the roles of problem-solving, team work, and concurrent development (i.e., wide-sense problem-solving) in the creative processes of the arts. An artist, like an engineer, endeavors to create a novel, or even innovative, product. The value of the artistic product is judged by the market in terms of its cost, aesthetics, social impact, and sometimes even safety, just like in engineering.

Furthermore, just as engineers have to construct, test, and evaluate designs, artists also construct their works, test them via exhibits or performances, and evaluate their own and others’ work.

We express these similarities because in practice the two fields, engineering and the arts, both come down to problem-solving, even though the nature of the problems and solutions may differ. Nonetheless, if the arts do involve substantial problem-solving skills, what better candidate for nurturing and cultivating out-of-the-box problem-solving in engineering than to expose (future) engineers’ minds to multiple avenues of solution generation?

Naturally, we do not argue that all aspects of engineering and the arts have substantial parallels. There are aspects of engineering design that may find no parallels in the arts, such as the critical importance of reliability or the need for detailed documentation. Nonetheless, more aspects of engineering than are typically thought of can be found in varying degrees of relationship to the problem-solving processes of the arts.

We hypothesize that engineering students who are exposed to progressive problem-solving in an active arts context would benefit from the cognitive habits of the arts while developing in engineering, and thus find the opportunity to transfer these skills to their engineering work.

We propose a long-term study culminating in analysis of assessment data from three student populations engaged in junior and senior engineering projects: those with no substantial arts experience, those with significant P–12 arts experience, and those with ongoing arts engagement (involving long-term monotonic progress) in parallel with their college engineering education.

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