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Infusing Engineering Practice into the Core to Meet the Needs of a Knowledge-based Economy

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2013 ASEE International Forum


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 22, 2013

Start Date

June 22, 2013

End Date

June 22, 2013

Conference Session

Reception & Poster Session

Tagged Topic

ASEE International Forum

Page Count


Page Numbers

21.32.1 - 21.32.15



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Paper Authors


Brian Bielenberg Petroleum Institute Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Brian Bielenberg holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Metallurgical Engineering, a Master’s in Materials Science, and a Ph.D. in Education. His research interests revolve around engineering education reform, content and language integrated learning, and academic language and literacy needs in design classrooms. He currently serves as Head of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching and Assistant Director of the Arts and Sciences Program at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, UAE, where he also teaches interdisciplinary, project-based introductory design courses.

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Infusing Engineering Practice into the Core to Meet the Needs of a Knowledge-based EconomyA number of Middle Eastern countries are experiencing extraordinary rates of growth anddevelopment. Concurrently, they have been placing an increasing focus on building sustainable,knowledge-based economies. To function in such economies, professional engineers require notonly technological know-how, but also a set of key professional skills and broad understandingof contemporary issues. Critical to efforts to prepare local engineering undergraduates forcareers in today’s economy, it is argued, is a rethinking of how engineers are educated. In thispaper the origins of the current dominant approach to engineering education in the region arediscussed along with identification of shortfalls of such approaches. The major aspects of callsfor reform are highlighted, with a discussion of suggested pedagogical approaches, changes inlearning environment, and curricular innovations that can better prepare engineers for the rolesthey will play in the 21st century. Implementation of reforms is exemplified throughpresentation and discussion of the efforts of a small Middle Eastern engineering universitycurrently in the process of adopting reforms in order to better prepare local engineeringundergraduates for careers in the energy sector. Offering degrees only in engineering, theuniversity has an annual enrollment of just over 1000 students. As an English medium universityin an Arab country, nearly 100% of students have English as a second language. In addition, alarge percentage is among the first generation in their family to attend university.Curriculum reform within the Arts and Sciences Program of this university, which offers thecourses in the first two years of the undergraduate engineering program, was initiated in Fall2011. The aim is to develop a more integrated, spiraling core curriculum that exposes students toengineering as a profession from their very first university experiences. In this paper we presentthe challenges, successes, and failures experienced during the development and implementationphases of a comprehensive package of approaches intended to develop in students the skills andknowledge needed today. The package includes the introduction of a studio approach toteaching physics, which involves extensive collaboration with a North American university,redesign of a freshman engineering seminar to include more design and exposure to what itmeans to “be an engineer,” participation of sophomore students in international design competitions,and a substantial expansion of academic support services. Impacts of implemented reforms have beenevaluated in terms of meeting enrollment targets during a period of increased competition for alimited pool of potential students, and retention of those students who are admitted. Impactswithin the classroom have been studied through quantitative data such as DFW rates, studentacademic achievement in the content area, and documented achievement levels of professionalskills learning outcomes. In addition, qualitative feedback has been obtained from A&Sstudents, A&S faculty, and engineering program faculty on their experiences with regard to thereforms. Overall, the first round of data indicates positive results. The paper concludes with adescription of the next phases of reform and the rigorous research program designed to studytheir impacts.

Bielenberg, B. (2013, June), Infusing Engineering Practice into the Core to Meet the Needs of a Knowledge-based Economy Paper presented at 2013 ASEE International Forum, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--17237

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