New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
College Industry Partnerships
EQUIPPING ENGINEERING UNDERGRADUATE COLLEGE STUDENTS WITH THE TOOLS NEEDED TO TRANSITION FROM SOLVING TEXTBOOK PROBLEMS TO REAL-WORLD, INDUSTRY PROJECTS
Undergraduate engineering programs at American universities are highly theory-focused. It is essential to have a rigorous understanding of the theoretical concepts to master one’s chosen field. On the job, this theoretical background is beneficial while working on projects because it enables an engineer to understand what is happening from a conceptual viewpoint. This is necessary to produce an optimum engineering product, and also to feel a sense of satisfaction in one’s work. It gives an engineer a sense of security, trust and confidence in the approach used to solve the problem. It provides an engineer with a reservoir of knowledge that can be accessed when confronted by unfamiliar and challenging problems. It helps understand the inner workings of the software packages being used, to interpret the results, and to ascertain whether the software is functioning properly. Also, some problems are better solved using hand-calculations, instead of a software package, making a strong grasp of the theory mandatory. Finally, the process of mastering theory and solving textbook problems builds an engineer’s analytical thinking skills, which can then be applied toward solving real-world problems.
Despite the benefits of a theory-intensive undergraduate engineering curriculum, there exists one significant drawback: fresh graduates are unskilled at the process involved in representing real-world systems as idealized models that can be subsequently analyzed using theoretical engineering textbook principles. They are unfamiliar with defining a system (the known and unknown quantities, boundary conditions, etc.), and the assumptions made while doing so. This conclusion is based upon feedback received from employers and freshly graduated engineers.
The Capstone Project attempts to fill in the void between theory and practice. However, based upon feedback from fresh engineering graduates, it does not perform an optimum job of doing so. For this reason, this paper presents an innovative course that would attempt to fill this gap between theory and practice, and teach engineering students in the final semester of their senior year the thought-process involved in developing idealized models of real-world systems. Briefly, the course involves a weekly presentation by a practicing engineer from the industry, preferably working in a company in the geographical vicinity of the college. The visiting engineer describes a personally completed project, including details of the steps involved in defining the real-world system’s idealized model while having only a limited amount of information about the actual system (which is typical of industry projects), the pros and cons of choices that were made during the modeling process with respect to the cost (in terms of money, time, and effort), reliability and safety of the final product, and the assumptions used. Engineers from different companies are encouraged to visit, to expose the students to the approaches followed in different companies. This would serve the additional benefit of providing the students with an opportunity to interact directly with potential future employers and develop a network.
Desai, N. H., & Stefanek, G. (2016, June), Equipping Engineering Undergraduate College Students with the Tools Needed to Transition from Solving Textbook Problems to Real-world, Industry Projects Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26731
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