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Situating Engineering Education in a World Impacted by COVID-19

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Ethics, Mindfulness, and Reform During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

12

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37718

Download Count

15

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Paper Authors

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Thomas A. De Pree University of New Mexico

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Thomas A. De Pree is an ASERT-IRACDA postdoctoral fellow in the School of Medicine at University of New Mexico (2020-2023), where he holds a research appointment with the UNM Metal Exposure and Toxicity Assessment on Tribal Lands in the Southwest (METALS) Superfund Research Program Center, and a teaching appointment in environmental sciences at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI). His Ph.D. & M.S. are in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (August 2019); M.A. in Anthropology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University (June 2015); B.A. in Anthropology and Psychology from the University of New Mexico (January 2010). His disciplinary background is in sociocultural anthropology and archaeology with training in ethnographic methods and cultural resource management. He also has interdisciplinary experience in political ecology, science and technology studies (STS), and Native American and Indigenous studies (NAIS). His dissertation entitled, The Life of the By-Product in the 'Grants Uranium District' of Northwestern New Mexico (August 2019), examines the entanglement of sciences, technologies, and politics invested in cleaning up so-called ecological "sacrifice zones." See one of his recent publications in Journal of Environmental Management, "The Politics of Baselining in the Grants Uranium Mining District of Northwestern New Mexico" (April 2020).

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Sarah Appelhans University at Albany-SUNY

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Sarah Appelhans is a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at the University at Albany (SUNY). Her dissertation research, "Flexible Lives on the Integrated Circuit: Gender and Belonging in Semiconductor Manufacturing", investigates the boundaries of membership in engineering in the Northeastern United States. She is honored to be a research assistant on two NSF-sponsored studies entitled "The Distributed System of Governance in Engineering Education" and "Developing Human Social Networks to Identify and Develop Data Driven Metrics and Methods for Expanding Learning Opportunities Across the Lifetime" under the direction of Dr. Alan Cheville and Dr. Atsushi Akera. In addition to her academic experience, she is a former mechanical engineer with several years of experience in the aviation and construction industries.

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Alan Cheville Bucknell University

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Alan Cheville studied optoelectronics and ultrafast optics at Rice University, followed by 14 years as a faculty member at Oklahoma State University working on terahertz frequencies and engineering education. While at Oklahoma State, he developed courses in photonics and engineering design. After serving for two and a half years as a program director in engineering education at the National Science Foundation, he took a chair position in electrical engineering at Bucknell University. He is currently interested in engineering design education, engineering education policy, and the philosophy of engineering education.

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Atsushi Akera Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Atsushi Akera is Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY). He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in the History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania. His current research is on the history of engineering education reform in the United States (1945-present). He is a the current Chair of the ASEE Ad Hoc Committee on Interdivisional Cooperation; Chair of the International Network for Engineering Studies (INES); past chair of the ASEE Liberal Education / Engineering and Society Division; and a former member of the Society for the History of Technology’s (SHOT) Executive Council. Publications include /Calculating a Natural World: Scientists, Engineers and Computers during the Rise of U.S. Cold War Research/ (MIT Press, 2006).

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Melissa Shuey Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Melissa Shuey is an incoming Ph.D. student in Science and Technology Studies, at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA). She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY) with a minor in Science, Technology, and Society. Under the direction of Dr. Atsushi Akera and Dr. Alan Cheville, she has worked as an undergraduate and post-baccalaureate research assistant on two NSF-sponsored studies. Her current research is on documenting the student experience as educational technologies are integrated into engineering education.

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Abstract

Through a series of ethnographic vignettes, this paper portrays a few exceptional experiences in engineering education during the initial impacts of COVID-19 and the forced transition to online learning in the United States. Despite social and physical distancing, and the interruption of live in-person education, we take account of how engineering educators engaged and situated students’ learning experiences in engineering education. In this way, we aim to scale up two anthropological concepts into the growing field of engineering education research (EER): “engaged universals” (Tsing 2005), and an elaboration on “situated learning” (Lave and Wenger 1991) Jean Lave refers to as, “apprenticeship in critical ethnographic practice” (2011). This paper will highlight the affordances of learning conceived in these terms through a description of our interlocutors’ pedagogical practices and educational infrastructures. Furthermore, COVID-19 has both exacerbated and made more obvious the unevenness and inequities in our educational practices, processes, and infrastructures. For this reason, we also account for how these exceptional engineering educators took the opportunity to socially broaden their classrooms and their curricula to include, not just public health matters, but also contemporary political and social movements—i.e., Black Lives Matter (BLM).

This paper is a product of an ongoing collaborative NSF EAGER project (DUE-1745922) and early conceptual work (in-progress) on the relationship between educational technology (EdTech) startups and academic institutions through the examination of diverse pathways of lifelong learners, from pre-college to post-graduation and industry onboarding, and the affordances and pitfalls of MOOCs and Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs) for supplementing STEM education. The research project began before the impacts of COVID-19, at a workshop at Santa Fe Institute (June 2018) attended by stakeholders from academia, government, and industry invested in lifelong learning in engineering education. The workshop aimed to address the general lack of communication between key stakeholders in the ecosystem of engineering education. Since the first workshop, we have been conducting semi-structured interviews with selected participants, and their colleagues and collaborators through “snowball sampling” (interlocutor referral).

Using the metaphor of “an ecosystem” to make sense of the governance of engineering education and the epistemic relationships between institutions and individuals (Akera 2007; Rosenberg 1979; Star et al. 1995), the method of snowball sampling offered a way to map “ecological niches” and “entangled banks” (see Hagen 1992). This would not have been possible without the dense (and high profile) associations of key interlocutors we refer to as “keystone” social actors—who cultivate spaces (historical material) and places (phenomenological) to play with the double-binds that inhere in engineering education criteria, and balance problem definition with problem solving. In this paper, we are dedicated to “saving the ‘small N’” (Slaton and Pawley 2018) of anthropological community studies within EER, with particular interest in how small actions can bring about major changes in the ecosystem of engineering education.

De Pree, T. A., & Appelhans, S., & Cheville, A., & Akera, A., & Shuey, M. (2021, July), Situating Engineering Education in a World Impacted by COVID-19 Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37718

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