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Making History Active: Archival Interventions for Engineering Education

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Assessing Literacies in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Christopher Leslie New York University Tandon School of Engineering

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Christopher Leslie is a Lecturer of Science, Technology and Media Studies at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering in Brooklyn, New York, and he is codirector of the Science and Technology Studies program there. Dr. Leslie's research considers the cultural formations that surround technology, science, and media in the 19th- and 20th-century United States. He is the head writing consultant for the Introduction to Engineering and Design course, and also teaches courses in Science and Technology Studies such as the international history of the Internet, the history of science and race, and science fiction.

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Lindsay Anderberg New York University Tandon School of Engineering

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Lindsay Anderberg is the Archivist and User Services Librarian at New York University Tandon School of Engineering in Brooklyn, New York. She received her MSLIS with a concentration in rare books and special collections from Long Island University’s Palmer School of Library and Information Science. She holds a master’s degree in science studies from New York University’s John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Dickinson College.

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This paper demonstrates how methodologies of liberal education can be used to enhance an undergraduate engineering education. In a 2-credit introduction to Science and Technology Studies course that undergraduate engineering students may elect to take as part of their general education requirement, the authors engaged in what they call an “archival intervention”: introducing primary sources in the classroom and visiting the school’s library to engage with archival materials. The intervention itself was the result of a team effort (the course instructor, who is in the engineering school’s humanities department, and an archivist from the school’s library). This course is currently being taught in the fall 2015 semester and so the project and evaluation of it is still underway. This intervention, we hope, reflects how the supposed gap between humanities and engineering can be successfully bridged. In particular, we wish to demonstrate how even a small-scale project like this, using available resources, will demonstrate how liberal education has an important role to play in educating engineers. In this way, we think of this project as showing how liberal education can participate in preparing engineers in accordance with ABET criteria. As indicated in ABET’s 2006 document, Engineering Change: A Study of the Impact of EC2000 (Executive Summary), ABET has encouraged engineering education to follow an active learning model. This exercise most closely reflects criterion 3h, understanding engineering in its “global and social context.” The Executive Summary states that the aim of program evaluation has been to include more opportunities for active learning. As engineering classes move in this direction, so too must liberal education. This intervention, which is of admittedly limited scope, embodies the principles of active learning sought by ABET: it is open ended in nature and it focuses on four case studies. By working with primary source materials related to science and engineering, we hope students will take the opportunity to rethink what it means to be an inventor or entrepreneur, imagining this work in the larger social context. As a reflective project, students wrote short “response” papers or made presentations based on this work. Through the use of anonymous surveys, we will be able to gauge student interest in the project. This class has 12 first-year students and 12 advanced students, from sophomores to seniors. Due to the heterogeneous makeup of the class, we will also be able to assess whether there is any difference in response to these two groups. Although the data collection and analysis is still underway at the time of submission (October 2015), by the time of the first draft submission we will be in a position to make that analysis. One might expect that first-year students would be the least interested in this kind of project and less prepared to make this kind of analysis. However, students who responded to earlier projects of this sort noted that they liked the insight into the world of working engineers that archival material provided them. For this reason, we are wondering if the first-year students will in fact show more enthusiasm in their responses. If this is the case, then we will be inspired to include more experiences of this type for beginning engineering students with the hope that it will support retention of students in engineering programs.

Leslie, C., & Anderberg, L. (2016, June), Making History Active: Archival Interventions for Engineering Education Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25663

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