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Gaining Industry Experience Exposure During a Pandemic

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Learning in a Socially-Distanced Environment

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Wm. Michael Butler Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Wm. Michael Butler is an Associate Professor of Practice in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He is a 23 year aerospace industry design professional with B.S. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech and a PhD. in Engineering Education also from Virginia Tech. His engineering education research is focused on the use of design tools and live simulation in engineering design education as a means to better prepare students for industry. He is a Senior Member of AIAA and a member of ASEE. Michael is also a co-inventor on two patents relating to air vehicle design.

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Kenneth Reid University of Indianapolis

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Kenneth Reid is the Associate Dean and Director of the R.B. Annis School of Engineering at the University of Indianapolis and an affiliate Associate Professor in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He is active in engineering within K-12, serving on the TSA Board of Directors. He and his coauthors were awarded the William Elgin Wickenden award for 2014, recognizing the best paper in the Journal of Engineering Education. He was awarded an IEEE-USA Professional Achievement Award in 2013 for designing the nation's first BS degree in Engineering Education. He was named NETI Faculty Fellow for 2013-2014, and the Herbert F. Alter Chair of Engineering (Ohio Northern University) in 2010. His research interests include success in first-year engineering, engineering in K-12, introducing entrepreneurship into engineering, and international service and engineering. He has written texts in design, general engineering and digital electronics, including the text used by Project Lead the Way.

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The path to becoming a practicing engineer has many steps; in addition to obtaining a foundational technical background, students often seek experiences to practice learned skills and discover more about the engineering profession. Indeed, there is general agreement between academia and industry on the value of such experiences. The question remains, however: how do we best provide students this exposure within a curriculum that is already extremely packed leaving little time for extra experiences? How do we help students gain skills and experience to better transition from being “students” to being working professionals, able to handle both the technical expectations and the professional skills necessary for success? A recent literature review indicated a “lack of literature that explores the design of workplace induction programs to assist novice engineer’s transition to professional work.” This is consistent with the authors’ observations of engineers’ preparation for the workplace at most universities. While this has traditionally been difficult, the COVID-19 pandemic meant gaining professional experience as a student is more of a challenge than ever. It is within this context that a course in the __________department at ____________ had been implemented and was forced to change in response to the global pandemic. The Introductory Industry Design Experience course focuses on introducing engineering students to the industrial work environment through a concentrated engineering design experience. The target audience for such a course is primarily students who lacked “real-world” experience through internships or co-op. During the course, working with industrial partners, students gain an authentic understanding of the engineering workplace while developing skills in teamwork, communication, time and project management and contemporary software tools. The original course culminated with an onsite plant visit and design review with partner companies. In the time of the pandemic, this important in-person exposure to employers has had to be curtailed and modified into a virtual experience. This paper will describe the course offered in the spring semester of the 2020 academic year, including lessons learned for the course when university campuses reopen. Partner companies were selected that were within a day’s drive of the university so that students could take other courses in addition to the Introductory Industry Design Experience without missing classes during plant visits. The stoppage of in-person classes at the university in March of that year prevented students from being able to physically visit the local companies that were part of the course. However, this in turn led to a series of intimate live online conversations with potential employers that provided employer access that students would not have available to them otherwise, which proved to be immensely valuable. Student feedback remained positive in spite of the inability to travel to corporate sites.

Butler, W. M., & Reid, K. (2021, July), Gaining Industry Experience Exposure During a Pandemic Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37213

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