June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Design in Engineering Education
22.430.1 - 22.430.26
Design in Context: Where do the Engineers of 2020 Learn this Skill?Increasingly, engineers must design engineering solutions that consider environmental,social, economic, historical, global, and political consequences. Examples like the ThreeGorges Dam in China, the development of next generation fusion nuclear power, and OneLaptop per Child illustrate the complexity of current and future engineering projects. TheNational Academy of Engineering argues that the “Engineer of 2020” must not only betechnically capable, but also be able to understand the contextual requirements andconsequences of their work (National Academy of Engineering, 2004, 2006). How canengineering programs best develop their students' ability to integrate context and design?This paper reports results from two national studies, funded by the National ScienceFoundation, which explored educational practices and outcomes at 30 diverse institutions.Prototype to Production: Processes and Conditions for Preparing the Engineer of 2020 (P2P)surveyed faculty members, program chairs, administrators, and undergraduateengineering students at 30 four-year U.S. engineering schools, and Prototyping theEngineer of 2020: A 360-degree Study of Effective Education (P360) developed detailedqualitative case studies of exemplary engineering educational practices at six institutions.We define contextual competence as an engineer's ability to anticipate and understand theconstraints and impacts of social, cultural, environmental, political, and other contexts onengineering solutions. Through the P2P project, students self-reported their level ofcontextual competence based on questions that related to their ability to connect contextsto design solutions. An analysis of where those skills are developed provides interestinginsight into effective educational practices. Engineering curricular emphasis on coreengineering thinking and broad perspectives are related to higher levels of contextualcompetency. Students reported higher contextual competency if their engineering schooloffered an entrepreneurship minor, but not design, leadership, or sustainability minors.Several co-curricular experiences had a positive influence on contextual competence,including being active in an engineering-related non-professional organization (such asNSBE or WISE) or other non-engineering clubs, and participating in humanitarianengineering projects, and other non-engineering service work. Interestingly, being activein engineering-specific organizations and participating in study abroad did not have apositive effect. All of these results are statistically significant after controlling for studentdemographics, academic discipline, and institutional characteristics. Of these areas,curricular emphases on core engineering thinking and broad perspectives had the largesteffect on the development of contextual competence.These quantitative findings correspond to results from the P360 case studies. Interviewswith faculty, administrators and students indicate that design-focused curricula, client-based capstone courses, hands-on laboratory courses, project and problem-based learningactivities, design competitions, undergraduate research programs, and student clubs allcontribute to students' contextual competence (Lattuca, Plumb, Terenzini, & Trautvetter,2010). Curricular practices such as a design-infused curriculum, problem-based learning,service learning opportunities, and credit-granting entrepreneurship/leadershipexperiences also promote contextual competency, as do co-curricular experiences,including involvement in design competitions, student organizations (such as EngineersWithout Borders) and club-based entrepreneurship/leadership experiences.This paper will provide an overview of the results from both studies, providingsuggestions as to how engineering programs can develop the Engineer of 2020's ability toeffectively design in context. ReferencesLattuca, L. R., Plumb, C., Terenzini, P. T., & Trautvetter, L. C. (2010, October 27-30). Panel - Solving engineering problems in context: Preliminary results from case studies of six exemplary engineering programs. Paper presented at the Frontiers in Education Conference: Celebrating 40 Years of Innovation, Washington, DC.National Academy of Engineering. (2004). The engineer of 2020: Visions of engineering in the new century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.National Academy of Engineering. (2006). Educating the engineer of 2020: Adapting engineering education to the new century. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Palmer, B., & Terenzini, P. T., & McKenna, A. F., & Harper, B. J., & Merson, D. (2011, June), Design in Context: Where do the Engineers of 2020 Learn this Skill? Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17711
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