Charlotte, North Carolina
June 20, 1999
June 20, 1999
June 23, 1999
4.230.1 - 4.230.12
Engineering Cultures: Better Problem Solving through Human and Global Perspectives? Juan C. Lucena, Gary Lee Downey Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University/ Virginia Tech
The purpose of this paper is both to call attention to the need for a new focus on problem definition in engineering education and to outline one curricular approach to helping students learn to define and solve problems in the context of competing perspectives. The main goal in this approach, which draws its conceptual insights from the interdisciplinary field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), is to enable students to understand and reflect on their own problem- solving activities as perspectives that both could have been otherwise and must live amidst other perspectives. The principal means is to help students learn about engineering in different times and places sufficiently that they can recognize, understand, respect, and possibly even value perspectives other than their own. For students trained to understand problems as given and answers as either right or wrong, putting in historical and global perspective what they value in themselves is no easy task.
Do engineering curricula adequately prepare graduates to work with people who define problems differently than they do? As undergraduates, engineering students learn to focus their attention wholly on the internal structure of problem solving. They are trained to value the repeated application of a stabilized method. The only thing that should vary from course to course and major to major is the type of problem and the appropriate mathematical tools for solving it.
Yet life on the job requires something that the mastery of mathematical problem solving does not provide, an ability to interact with and engage positively perspectives other than one’s own. By focusing on discipline-based problem solving, for example, does a mechanical engineering curriculum prepare students adequately to interact with other types of engineers who define their problems differently? By defining problems in mathematical terms and problem solving as the appropriate application of equations, do engineering curricula prepare students adequately to work with people trained to understand their work in other ways? By celebrating the one skill of math-based problem solving, do engineering curricula in the United States adequately prepare students to work with engineers trained in distinct national traditions? How might engineering students be trained better to work in environments where the need for negotiation and compromise in the definition of problems is more the rule than the exception?
The purpose of this paper is both to call attention to the need for a new focus on problem definition in engineering education and to outline one curricular approach to helping students learn to define and solve problems in the context of competing perspectives. The main goal in
Lucena, J., & Downey, G. L. (1999, June), Engineering Cultures: Engineering Problem Solving Through Humanistic And Global Perspectives Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina. https://peer.asee.org/7632
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: © 1999 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