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Industry Immersion: The Impacts of a Sabbatical Deep-Dive

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session


Tagged Topic

Corporate Member Council

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.957.1 - 26.957.9



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Paper Authors


Susannah Howe Smith College

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Susannah Howe, Ph.D. is the Design Clinic Director in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College, where she coordinates and teaches the capstone engineering design course. Her current research focuses on innovations in engineering design education, particularly at the capstone level. She is invested in building the capstone design community; she is a leader in the biannual Capstone Design Conferences and the Capstone Design Hub initiative. She is also involved with efforts to foster design learning in middle school students and to support entrepreneurship at primarily undergraduate institutions. Her background is in civil engineering with a focus on structural materials. She holds a B.S.E. degree from Princeton, and M.Eng. and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell.

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Industry Immersion: The Impacts of a Sabbatical Deep-DiveSabbatical experiences provide an opportunity for faculty to immerse themselves in currentscholarship, to explore new areas of research, and/or to pursue professional development. Forcapstone design instructors, many of whom coordinate projects with industry sponsors, a logicaloption for sabbatical is to spend it in industry. This option is particularly attractive and useful forfaculty members who have followed the standard academic pathway and have not previouslyworked as practicing engineers.This paper reports on one capstone design instructor's experiences during a year-long sabbaticalin industry. The author spent six months working as part of an engineering team at onecompany, and then spent four months on short visits to 24 engineering companies across thecountry to gain an inside look into a variety of engineering disciplines, multiple approaches toengineering design, and different workplace environments. These short visits lasted from 1-3days and included meetings with multiple employees, facility tours, and opportunities to shadowpeople in their daily tasks. At every visit the author solicited input on what skills engineeringstudents should learn in college, especially during their capstone design experience, to beprepared to be effective entry-level engineering employees.This paper reports on the feedback from the wide range of engineering companies regardingimportant skills for entry-level employees. The paper describes how the sabbatical experienceimpacted the author's approach to teaching the capstone design course, and modifications theauthor made to the course as a result. In addition, the paper discusses the process forcoordinating such short visits and recommendations for pursuing a similar sabbaticalexperience. The paper is geared toward design faculty, but is applicable to faculty in anyengineering discipline.

Howe, S. (2015, June), Industry Immersion: The Impacts of a Sabbatical Deep-Dive Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24294

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