June 12, 2005
June 12, 2005
June 15, 2005
10.793.1 - 10.793.14
Integrating Practice into Engineering Education
Lieutenant Colonel Robert A. Powell, Ph.D. Department of Systems Engineering United States Military Academy
Abstract – Academicians have noted a deficiency in engineering education offered by colleges and universities. The deficiency is that a majority of engineering graduates are taught by engineering faculty with little or no industry experience. Faculty far removed from advances in industrial practice will miss important opportunities to tailor the curriculum to crucial industrial needs. This will be to the disadvantage of their students. Regardless, employers yet expect colleges and universities to provide specifically trained graduates or graduates that have familiarity with the role of engineering in industry. West Point has been successful in bridging this gap while dealing with unique constraints not found at most academic institutions.
The purpose of this study is to describe a department’s approach at incorporating elements of engineering practice into its’ engineering curriculum. A survey was administered to graduating seniors to conduct an assessment of this approach. Graduates provided positive feedback on the course’s effectiveness and offered suggestions for updating its’ organization and structure. The results of the survey, from quantitative and qualitative responses, are used to assess the relevancy of this approach.
What we have traditionally learned from history is that we generally do not learn from history. The deficiencies present in American schools and colleges are not new and unusual. They have been around for awhile and have led to the same outcomes or problems facing America’s economy today – an uneducated workforce. Over twenty years ago reformers became increasingly preoccupied with the effects of inadequate education of United States workers on the nation’s economy. This development coincided with increasingly competitive economic challenges from Japan, Germany, and other European countries. Although global economic competitiveness is built upon the foundation of both an educated and skilled workforce, a skilled workforce is built upon the foundation of an educated workforce. A well-rounded education is necessary to produce workers, which allow the United States to compete successfully with other countries. No nation can grow, economically or socially, without significant and sustained investments in the knowledge and skills of its people.1
In an analysis of the education systems of America’s competitors, reformers noted that the workplace played a crucial role in the education system of Germany and Japan. John Dewey, who is considered the father of education, strongly felt that the educator had to narrow the distance between the classroom and the world outside it.3 In the United States, too much time elapsed before high school graduates got a chance to use whatever advanced skills they might
“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”
Powell, R. (2005, June), Integrating Practice Into Engineering Education Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14209
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