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Impact Of Engineering: Designing A Class For Technological Literacy Disciplines

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Engineering and Technology for Everyone

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.684.1 - 14.684.8



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Paper Authors


Mani Mina Iowa State University

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Mani Mina is with the department of Electrical and Computer engineering and is the also the director of Minor in Engineering studies (A technological literacy minor) at Iowa State University. He is an active member of IEEE and ASEE. His research interest include applied EM, RF systems, Optical devices, and engineering education at all levels.

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Ryan M. Gerdes Iowa State University

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Ryan M. Gerdes received a B.S. in computer engineering in 2004, and in
2006 both a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering, all from Iowa State University. He is currently working towards his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Iowa State University, where his research interests include physical layer security issues in networking and computation, applied electromagnetics, and the educational development of engineering students.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Impact of Engineering: Designing a Class for Technological Literacy Disciplines

This paper addresses some of the important challenges faced when designing a class for technological literacy programs; specifically, we discuss our experience in designing a class called Impact of Engineering for nonengineering students. We explore the meaning of “impact of engineering,” from a technological literacy standpoint through a discussion of the material, focus, and emphasis of the lectures, classroom discussions, and projects of the course. Attention is given to the process of creating the class: identifying material to cover, possible textbooks, available resources, and ideas for student projects. The paper also provides various valid options (with examples) for creating syllabi, class material, class discussion topics (including invited lecturers), and the use of Internet resources. Of particular importance is how, and if, the class is to be differentiated from, or complementary to, similar classes offered in liberal arts, history, political science, and philosophy programs. Student input is also considered: their reflections concerning the experience and their contributions to the discussions, design, and implementation of the class.


The quality of life and economic prosperity of the over 300 million residents of the United States are critically dependent on making wise choices on the use and further development of technology. Addressing technological issues, ranging from formulation and implementation of energy policies to telecommunications, is the mission of our 1.5 million engineers. To educate the public in technological literacy and provide them with essential information about technology requires a new look at our efforts in undergraduate education. As engineering programs at all levels are responsible for educating nonengineers about technology,1–10 we, as engineers, have a duty to provide effective technological literacy for the other 99.5% of U.S. citizens. Most of the country’s leadership usually comes from this larger group of citizens and generally has only a vague understanding of engineering and the use of technology for the national interest. Engineering concepts are pervasive in decision making within industry, government, education, and health care, and yet people make most decisions in these sectors with little or no formal engineering education. It is thus apparent that there is a national need for programs that train nonengineers to understand technological issues and possibilities and to be ready to address international-level challenges by working with politicians and technical people. In short, we need a national-level technological literacy program. Our school hopes to contribute to this effort by creating a new minor program (Engineering Studies) for nonengineering students that provides training to create a new, more technologically informed frame of mind for future leaders.

The structure of institutions of higher education has made it difficult for nonengineers to develop any depth of understanding about engineering and technology. An engineering major has an elaborate curriculum, requires substantial prerequisite courses, and is difficult to pursue in combination with another field of study. Science courses emphasize knowledge of the natural world but provide little practical understanding of our complex human-built technological infrastructure. Nonengineers who complete a university natural science requirement are hardly prepared to lead the world’s largest economy through its present turmoil if not able to make

Mina, M., & Gerdes, R. M. (2009, June), Impact Of Engineering: Designing A Class For Technological Literacy Disciplines Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5841

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: © 2009 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