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Industry Internships As A Tool For Curriculum Development

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.336.1 - 3.336.6

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Michele H. Miller

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

Session 2566

Industry Internships as a Tool for Curriculum Development

Michele H. Miller Michigan Technological University


Industry surveys indicate that new engineering graduates lack important skills. University curricula have been slow to respond to industry needs. In the summer of 1997 I participated in a month-long industrial internship. While opportunity was provided for making research contacts, the main purpose was to provide first hand exposure to what engineers do and what skills they need. By expanding this type of internship opportunity to involve more faculty, MTU hopes to accelerate the pace of curricular change. This paper describes the activities that comprised this internship as well as the skills observed to be most important. With a few exceptions, my list of skills matches the lists derived from employer surveys. Based on these observations, my recommendations for curriculum change are: (1) provide more opportunities for students to develop the soft skills (for example, by requiring more practical team projects); (2) explicitly teach process skills, such as problem solving and project management; (3) emphasize the basics in engineering science courses and how to apply them to a variety of problems; (4) offer more systems courses to help students deal with the complicated products and organizations they will encounter. The internship has impacted my teaching and service activities in several ways. The paper concludes with some suggestions for more tightly integrating the internship to curriculum development.


In some industrial quarters, there is growing dissatisfaction with the types of graduates coming out of engineering colleges. Published surveys repeatedly indicate that engineering graduates are deficient in several areas industry finds important.1,2 University curricula have been slow to respond to the demands of these important customers. Michigan Tech has several industry advisory boards that relate their priorities and suggest directions for curriculum modifications. However, the faculty, who are ultimately responsible for making changes, often have different priorities. Survival and success of our university may depend on whether we can adapt to the needs of industry.

The idea for this internship germinated from discussions of MTU’s National Advisory Board. By placing professors in industry settings for a short time, the NAB hoped that we would better appreciate their needs and become agents of curricular change. (The concept is similar to the Visiting Engineering Faculty Program being launched by ASEE and the Industrial Research Institute3). MTU’s Dean of Engineering Bob Warrington and a NAB member from Boeing, Fred Mitchell, initiated this pilot internship. During the summer of 1997 I spent a month at the Boeing Company. Like many internships, one of the purposes was professional development, and opportunities to visit research facilities and make contacts were included. However, this paper focuses on what was learned about engineers and their skills and implications for curriculum revision.

Miller, M. H. (1998, June), Industry Internships As A Tool For Curriculum Development Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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