June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
In Fall 2016, the MIT Dean of Engineering chartered the New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) initiative, a new cross-departmental effort to rethink engineering education (what students learn and how students learn) in a fundamental way across the school of engineering. NEET aims to educate young engineers to build the “new machines and systems” that will address societal challenges of the 21st century. NEET alumnus will be prepared to work as entrepreneurs/innovators, makers and discoverers, and future leaders through learning and practicing the NEET Ways of Thinking: cognitive approaches such as creative thinking, critical thinking, systems thinking and humanistic thinking that can help individuals think and learn more effectively and efficiently on their own initiative, throughout their lifetime.
In Fall 2017, NEET launched two pilot cross-departmental “threads” for sophomores in engineering; Autonomous Machines (covering traditional departments of aeronautics and astronautics, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering and computer science) and Living Machines (covering biological engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science and other technical degrees). These threads are cross-departmental pathways of classes and projects in areas that address the “new machines and systems” of the future and that are likely to play a major part in impacting the world when the students graduate. By participating in the pilot, students will earn an SB degree from the department they are majoring in and a NEET Certificate naming the thread, within the usual four-year duration. NEET has launched two additional pilot threads in Fall 2018: Advanced Materials Machines (covering materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering) and Clean Energy Systems (covering nuclear science and engineering, civil and environmental engineering, and mechanical engineering).
The NEET approach and curriculum developed over more than nine months of discussion that was informed by evidence gathered from students, faculty and alumni; input from thought leaders; a NEET-commissioned global engineering education benchmarking study, and; inputs from industry. Senior managers from over forty companies were interviewed and surveyed on the NEET Ways of Thinking, in terms of how proficient(scale of 0-5) they would expect a graduating MIT engineer to be on each of those cognitive approaches. Many managers said, for example, that it was no longer a question of training students on “communication skills” or “soft skills”. The ability to sell an idea properly --- marshal technical and other resources within the company and from outside (experts from MIT, other experts, conferences, online, etc.) and cogently present to senior managers and team members --- was a differentiating skill even for entry-level engineers.
Feedback was sought from sophomores in the first cohort both through anonymous online surveys and through face-to-face discussions. They responded that what they liked most about NEET was that they were becoming part of a professional community; this feedback though welcome, was somewhat unexpected as NEET had not been designed with that goal in mind. Sophomores appreciated the project-centric approach and the interactions NEET was starting to develop with industry.
Though it is far too early to come to meaningful conclusions for the medium to longer term, the initial response is encouraging. Over 5% of the Class of 2020 engineering population voluntarily opted for NEET in Fall 2017, and that has grown in Fall 2018 to over 12% of the Class of 2021 engineering students. These are significantly larger numbers than the number of students that have typically tended to opt for many new academic programs in the past and larger than the enrollment in most majors.
This paper will describe how NEET and the students in NEET are going about building community, how projects are being designed and implemented (including how the NEET Ways of Thinking are being incorporated), and how NEET and a specific company, General Motors, are prototyping an integrated collaboration, as a harbinger of more such industry connects in the future. We will share our key learnings and outline what we see as the next steps for the future, both strategic and tactical.
Crawley, E. F., & Hosoi, A., & Long, G. L., & Kassis, T., & Dickson, W., & Mitra, A. B. (2019, June), Moving Forward with the New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) program at MIT - Building Community, Developing Projects, and Connecting with Industry Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33124
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