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Redesigning Undergraduate Engineering Education at MIT – the New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) initiative

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Curricular Design and Assessment

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Edward F. Crawley Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Professor Ed Crawley is the Ford Professor of Engineering at MIT, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a recipient of the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for engineering education of the NAE. He is the Founding President of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) and. the Co-Director of NEET at MIT.

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Anette "Peko" Hosoi Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Anette (Peko) Hosoi is Associate Dean of Engineering and the Neil and Jane Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering, at MIT.  She received her PhD in Physics from the University of Chicago and went on to become an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in the MIT Department of Mathematics and at the Courant Institute, NYU. She is a leader in the study of the hydrodynamics of thin fluid films and in the nonlinear physical interaction of viscous fluids and deformable interfaces. Her work spans multiple disciplines including physics, biology and applied mathematics, and is being used, in collaboration with Schlumberger-Doll Research, Bluefin Robotics, and Boston Dynamics to guide the engineering design of robotic crawlers and other mechanisms. 

Prof. Hosoi is an exceptional, innovative teacher and an inspiring mentor for women in engineering. She was awarded the Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching, and a MacVicar Fellowship. She is a recipient of the 3M Innovation Award and has held the Doherty Chair in Ocean Utilization at MIT. She is a Radcliffe Institute Fellow and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.  Her research interests include fluid mechanics, bioinspired design and locomotion, with a focus on optimization of crawling gastropods, digging bivalves, swimming microorganisms and soft robotics. Prof. Hosoi is also an avid mountain biker and her passion for sports has led her to create MIT Sports Lab, a program that is designed to build an interconnected community of faculty, students, industry partners, alums and athletes who are dedicated to applying their technical expertise to advance the state-of-the-art in sports.

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Amitava "Babi" Mitra Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Dr. Amitava “Babi” Mitra is Executive Director, New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET), MIT. He was the founder-Dean, School of Engineering and Technology, BML Munjal University, Gurgaon, India and the founder-President and Vice-Chancellor, Vivekananda Global University, Jaipur, India. Mitra is passionate about evangelizing and implementing an educational vision that he believes in; he enjoys formulating, designing and planning its implementation, and then taking it through to fruition. Mitra was Executive Director, Academic Media Production Services (AMPS), MIT; Senior Vice-President, Knowledge Solutions Business, NIIT (USA), Inc.; the first Chief, Distance Learning Programs Unit, BITS, Pilani, India, and; founder-member, Council of Governors, Pan-Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation, Kumaon, India. He has served on the NERCOMP Board of Trustees, USA, was a founder-Board member, Sakai Project Board, USA and co-chaired the Advisory Board, Royal Roads University, Victoria, Canada. Mitra participated in the formulation of the Government of India’s National Policy on Education 1986; this led to his being one of the authors of a book titled, “Challenge and Response - Towards a New Education Policy & Beyond”, by C.R. Mitra & Associates, Wiley Eastern Limited, India, 1986.
He studied at St. Columba’s School, New Delhi, a National Science Talent Scholar, on the all-India merit list of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Joint Entrance Examinations and earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from BITS, Pilani, India. Mitra was born in New York City and grew up in India. He loves food, rock and roll music, the intersects across people and technology, growing up with his children and playing squash.

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MIT is reimagining and redesigning its undergraduate engineering education through the New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) initiative, which is based on the following four principles that are in consonance with student and societal needs, faculty values and MIT’s values and culture: • Prepare our students to develop the new machines and systems that they will build in the middle of the 21st century to address societal needs. • Help our students to be makers, discoverers or on the spectrum. • Build our education around the way our students best learn. • Teach our students the NEET Ways of Thinking --- how to think, and how to learn more effectively by themselves.

NEET is a new cross-departmental project-centric academic program with formalized collaboration across majors that was initiated in September 2016. Students will get a degree from the department they are majoring in plus a NEET Certificate in the cross-disciplinary thread they have opted for. We have identified a framework of eleven NEET Ways of Thinking; this framework formed the basis for getting inputs and gathering evidence from a range of stakeholders, including thought leaders, industry, alumni, students and faculty. An independent consultant was commissioned to conduct a global undergraduate engineering education survey. We will share the findings from the evidence gathered and elaborate on the three inventions of NEET that emerged from looking at the evidence: the NEET Ways of Thinking; the project-centric curricular construct, and; the concept of threads. The main organizing armature of the curriculum is now a sequence of projects inspired by the new machines. Students choose a sequence of explicitly interdepartmental projects, while fundamentals continue to be learned in departmentally offered subjects. Threads are pathways for inter-disciplinary engineering education that cut across disciplines and departments. Threads could be envisioned in areas such as the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles and systems, smart cities and urban infrastructure, and, large data analysis systems.

Engineering education worldwide is struggling with the widening gap between theory and practice. Employers increasingly believe that their needs are not being met. It is not that the education system has broken down; it’s just that what it delivers is increasingly obsolete. NEET aims to make engineering education more relevant.

NEET (see launched two pilot threads in Fall 2017, Autonomous Machines (covering aeronautics & astronautics, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering & computer science) and Living Machines (covering biological engineering, mechanical engineering and chemical engineering, but also open to any MIT undergraduate pursuing a technical degree program), and will be launching two new pilot threads in Fall 2018, Advanced Materials Machines (covering materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering) and Low Carbon Energy Systems (covering nuclear science and engineering, civil and environmental engineering and mechanical engineering). We will describe the process of building the community of students and faculty and developing curricula and projects for the threads, and share the learnings from the pilots, proposed governance structures, measures of success and opportunities on the horizon.

Though it is far too early to come to meaningful conclusions for the medium to longer term, the initial trends are encouraging. Over 5% of the sophomore engineering population has voluntarily opted for NEET, a significantly larger number than the number of students that have typically tended to opt for many new academic programs in the past. The student newspaper and a student blogger have also covered NEET favorably in the short space of eight months.

Crawley, E. F., & Hosoi, A. P., & Mitra, A. B. (2018, June), Redesigning Undergraduate Engineering Education at MIT – the New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) initiative Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30923

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