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Transforming Engineering Education For Meeting The Requirements Of The Global Industry Pioneering The Use Of The Systems Approach In Europe

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

International Engineering Education I

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1348.1 - 11.1348.25



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Paper Authors

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Simo Lehto Helsinki Polytechnic

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Transforming Engineering Education for Meeting the Requirements of the Global Industry - Pioneering the Use of the Systems Approach in Europe


The paper describes the ongoing work carried out in Finland since the early 1990s aimed at restructuring engineering education (EE) for meeting the requirements of the European high- tech industry in the 2010s. The increasing global competition has forced the companies to make a transition from the repetitive (routine) mode of operation to the development (creative) mode of operation.

This qualitative change creates new requirements for EE, which can only be met by reengineering EE institutions accordingly. The complexity of this task necessitates a systematic theoretical approach. The systems approach used in Finland does not divide the world into disciplines. In handles the extreme complexity of the world by regarding it as collection of functional entities (systems) and describing them with appropriate models.

Modern engineering is very successful in the field of physical systems. The reason is that the nonliving systems can be described by accurate and general science-based models, e.g. by the Newton and Maxwell models.

In the EE development work in Finland, engineering education is considered as a complex multilevel system consisting of human beings. People (e.g. the students) are also described as complex living systems, which have been designed by evolution over millions of years. The basic structure and function of the human being, including learning as an important component, has been modeled by using the latest results of the relevant sciences (e.g. evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, biology, genetics, and educational science). The work has shown that the human being can be modeled as a dynamic, parallel, and hierarchical system, which is internally driven by a genetically programmed control system.

The use of the systems approach has led to a new EE structure. A sequence of learning projects connected to the real world is used as the vehicle for supporting and guiding the individual learning processes of the students and realizing an efficient learning environment for the whole study period. Group work, teamwork, and project work are used as an integral part of the new structure. The reengineered EE corresponds closely to the mode of operation and organization of international companies. Therefore, it removes the structural and functional discrepancy between the EE institutions and their main customers: the global high- tech industry.

The new approach, which utilizes a unified engineering-type model for the human being, has created a possibility for carrying out the EE development work as a systematic engineering work in cooperation between engineers and human scientists. The use of the systems approach for the development of new EE is an example of extending the efficient working methods of engineering from the physical world to the realm of complex social system as cooperation of engineers and specialists. The experience suggests that systems and model thinking opens interesting possibilities for bridging the gulf between engineering and the humanistic sciences.

Lehto, S. (2006, June), Transforming Engineering Education For Meeting The Requirements Of The Global Industry Pioneering The Use Of The Systems Approach In Europe Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--473

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