Asee peer logo

Improving The Ability Of Engineering Students To Communicate To Non Technical Audiences

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Innovative Courses/Pedagogies in Liberal Education I

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.703.1 - 15.703.16



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Deborah Sinnreich-Levi Stevens Institute of Technology

visit author page

Prof. Deborah Sinnreich-Levi is associate professor of English and comparative literature at Stevens Institute of Technology, where she has directed the writing program since 1990. She ran the grant-funded Humanities Resource Center for 17 years. She direct both the undergraduate writing program, and the graduate professional communications certificate program. She teaches literature and advanced writing courses for engineers. She has been awarded two Institute distinguished teaching awards, and one research award, in addition to receiving funding 5 years in a row from Stevens' Technogenesis® Summer Scholars' Program for digitizing a database of 14th-century poems. Her publications include articles on technology and the teaching of writing, as well as 6 volumes on medieval studies. She began teaching writing in 1980, and has directed writing programs since 1987.

visit author page

author page

Susan Metz Stevens Institute of Technology


David Silverstein Stevens Institute of Technology

visit author page

David Silverstein earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the Pennsylvania State University, and has undergraduate degrees in English and psychology from Cornell University. He served as a full-time lecturer at PSU, teaching several writing courses. He has helped to coordinate writing tutorial programs at PSU both and Stevens Institute of Technology, where he now directs the Writing and Communication Center. Additionally, he has worked as a technical writer in both the high-tech and financial fields and has been awarded an Academy of American Poets prize. His work has appeared in several journals, including The Amherst Review, The New School’s LIT Magazine and Pank. He previously worked as a technical writer for a market research firm.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Improving the Ability of Engineering Students to Communicate Their Technical Discoveries to Non-Technical Audiences Abstract:

The Engineer of 2020 identifies the ability to communicate as a key attribute of successful engineers. ABET requires engineering schools to ensure students’ ability to communicate effectively upon graduation. Yet traditionally, the ability to communicate has been interpreted narrowly, simply requiring students to convey technical information to their professors or peers. Stevens Institute of Technology, through its Writing and Communications Center, offers a sequence of workshops to undergraduate engineering students in their junior and senior years designed to develop and strengthen students’ oral and written presentation skills. The Engineering Information Foundation (EIF) provided funding to Stevens to improve existing support for students by developing and assessing workshop components to increase students’ ability to communicate research to non-technical audiences. Modifications to the workshops were made based on pre- and post-survey data. Furthermore, the grant was used to develop and award a Communication Prize. Typically, Stevens, awards a prize to two senior design project student teams for innovative design, research or business projects which could lead to the development of a technology directly linked to either novel or established scientific concepts. The EIF grant offered the opportunity to award an additional prize for the senior design team that developed the most compelling presentation to non-technical audiences. This essay provides specific information about the workshop content and Communication Prize criteria, student assessment and faculty response to the project.


That engineers’ ability to communicate with a variety of audiences is crucial to their success seems widely if tacitly accepted. For example, The Engineer of 2020, a report by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) points to engineers’ engagement with “multiple stakeholders – government, private industry, and the public” and remarks, “The increasing imperative for accountability will necessitate an ability to communicate convincingly and to shape the opinions and attitudes of other engineers and the public.” 1 Further, In Raising Public Awareness of Engineering, the NAE concludes that the need to improve public awareness about engineering among an array of lay audiences is considerable. Elected representatives are ill-equipped to make decisions about technology-related issues, and students, parents and teachers remain uninformed about engineering and the contributions of the field which continues to deter students from studying engineering. 2 The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) summarizes these issues compellingly: “Scientists and engineers who foster information-sharing and respect between science and the public are essential for the public communication of and engagement with science. … [T]raditional scientific training typically does not prepare scientists and engineers to be effective communicators outside of academia.” 3 The AAAS, the NSF and other organizations have begun to respond to this need through a variety of means. Engineering

Sinnreich-Levi, D., & Metz, S., & Silverstein, D. (2010, June), Improving The Ability Of Engineering Students To Communicate To Non Technical Audiences Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16078

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: © 2010 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