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Defining the Aims of Engineering Literacy with Lessons from a Pioneering Attempt to Measure Engineering Ability of Pre-University Students.

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

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Paper Authors


John Krupczak Jr. Hope College

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Professor of Engineering, Hope College, Holland, Michigan. Former Chair of the ASEE Technological Literacy Division; Former Chair of the ASEE Liberal Education Division; Senior Fellow CASEE, National Academy of Engineering, 2008-2010; Program Officer, National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education 2013-2016.

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John Heywood Trinity College Dublin

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John Heywood is professorial Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College Dublin- The University of Dublin. he is a Fellow of ASEE and Life Fellow of IEEE. he is an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Ireland. He has special interest in education for the professions and the role of professions in society. He is author of Engineering Education. Research and Development in Curriculum and Instruction; The Assessment of Learning in Engineering Education; The Human Side of Engineering, and Empowering Professional Teaching in Engineering. He co-authored A Case Study in Curriculum Assessment - GCE Engineering Science (Advanced).

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Carl O. Hilgarth Shawnee State University

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Carl O. Hilgarth, M.S., is current division chair of the ASEE Technological and Engineering Literacy / Philosophy of Engineering Division of ASEE. He is Professor Emeritus and former chair of engineering technologies at Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio. He is a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Management and Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Mr. Hilgarth has a 29-year career in academia instructing courses in industrial management, financial management, computer technology, and environmental technology, as well as leading seminars in the university's general education program. Prior to academia, Mr. Hilgarth was employed as as engineer in the aerospace industry in laboratory and flight test development, facilities management, and as a manager in quality assurance. He has contributed papers on management, ground-test laboratory and flight test facilities, and ethics to several technical and professional organizations. In education, he has served as a consultant and curriculum developer to the Ohio Board of Higher Education and the Ohio Department of Education. He holds an M.S. in engineering management from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and a B.S. from the City College of New York.

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This work argues that there is a need for a substantial debate about the aims of engineering literacy and that the ASEE Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering Division (TELPhE) would benefit from efforts to more fully answer the question “Why should the general public have some understanding of engineering?” Experiences from an early attempt to measure the engineering ability of pre-university students demonstrate the problems that can emerge for an educational program if the motivating questions of why are not adequately transparent and addressed. In advocating for broader understanding of engineering in Technically Speaking, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) argued that responsible citizenship and the need to make responsible decisions motivated engineering literacy. Beyond the responsible citizen argument, the NAE offered very little about “why understand technology” as opposed to questions of “what should be known.” Since the establishment of the original ASEE Technological Literacy Division in 2005, schools of thought that answer the question of “why” include: responsible technological citizenship, empowerment as consumers of technological hardware, career awareness and development, filling gaps in the educational program of engineers, and the recognition of engineering as an important and unique contribution to general education. This paper draws lessons from the experience of the Joint Matriculation Board (JMB) of several universities in the United Kingdom from the late 1960s to 1970s. The Joint Matriculation Board sought to develop university entrance examinations in engineering during a time in which the foundations of modern engineering educational practices were solidifying. The board sought to create an examination guided by an overall philosophy of engineering. Many issues articulated by the board foreshadowed the condition of engineering literacy efforts today. The significance of well-defined educational outcomes and the alignment between objectives, curriculum, and assessment were vividly illustrated in the JMB experience. The paper argues that answers to the “why” questions could be more carefully developed today and that a series of valid and compelling answers to “why” would further the TELPhE Division’s continued efforts to help everyone know more about engineering and technology.

Krupczak, J., & Heywood, J., & Hilgarth, C. O. (2019, June), Defining the Aims of Engineering Literacy with Lessons from a Pioneering Attempt to Measure Engineering Ability of Pre-University Students. Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32580

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