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Update on is it Rocket Science or Brain Science? Developing an Approach to Measure Engineering Intuition

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Elif Miskioglu Bucknell University

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I am an early-career engineering education scholar and educator. I hold a B.S. in Chemical Engineering (with Genetics minor) from Iowa State University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University. My early Ph.D. work focused on the development of bacterial biosensors capable of screening pesticides for specifically targeting the malaria vector mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. As a result, my diverse background also includes experience in infectious disease and epidemiology, providing crucial exposure to the broader context of engineering problems and their subsequent solutions.

These diverse experiences and a growing passion for improving engineering education prompted me to change career paths and become a scholar of engineering education. As an educator, I am committed to challenging my students to uncover new perspectives and dig deeper into the context of the societal problems engineering is intended to solve. As a scholar, I seek to not only contribute original theoretical research to the field, but work to bridge the theory-to-practice gap in engineering education by serving as an ambassador for empirically driven educational practices.

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Adam Carberry Arizona State University

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Dr. Adam Carberry is an associate professor at Arizona State University in the Fulton Schools of Engineering, The Polytechnic School. He earned a B.S. in Materials Science Engineering from Alfred University, and received his M.S. and Ph.D., both from Tufts University, in Chemistry and Engineering Education respectively. His research investigates the development of new classroom innovations, assessment techniques, and identifying new ways to empirically understand how engineering students and educators learn. He currently serves as the Graduate Program Chair for the Engineering Education Systems and Design Ph.D. program. He is also the immediate past chair of the Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN) and a senior associate editor for the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE). Prior to joining ASU he was a graduate student research assistant at the Tufts’ Center for Engineering Education and Outreach.

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Kaela Martin Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Prescott

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Kaela Martin is an Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott Campus. She holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Iowa State University, a B.S. in Mathematics from Iowa State University, and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University. Her research focuses on bridging the theory-to-practice gap in engineering education through new educational techniques.

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Sanjeev Kavale Arizona State University

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Caroline Bolton Bucknell University

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Caitlyn Aaron

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Madeline Roth Bucknell University

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Engineering problem solving has become more complex and reliant on technology making engineering judgement an increasingly important and essential skill for engineers. Educators need to ensure that students do not become rote learners with little ability to critically analyze the result of solutions. This suggests that greater focus should be placed on developing engineering judgement, specifically engineering intuition, in our students who will be the future engineering workforce. This project is focused on the following four research questions: 1) What are practicing professional engineers’ perceptions of discipline specific intuition and its use in the workplace? 2) Where does intuition manifest in expert engineer decision-making and problem-solving processes? 3) How does the motivation and identity of practicing professional engineers relate to discipline-specific intuition? 4) What would an instrument designed to validly and reliably measure engineering intuition look like? Literature from the fields of nursing (Smith), management (Simon), and expertise development (Dreyfus) suggest intuition plays a role in both decision making and becoming an expert. This literature is used to support our definition of engineering intuition which is defined as the ability to: 1) assess the feasibility of a solution or response, and 2) predict outcomes and/or options within an engineering scenario (Authors). This paper serves as an update on the progress of our work to date. The first three research questions have been addressed through interviews with engineering practitioners at various stages in their careers, from early career to retired. Emergent findings have allowed us to construct a modified definition of engineering intuition, while also identifying related constructs. In Spring 2021, we created and tested an instrument to measure intuition. This instrument was re-deployed in Fall 2021. Preliminary results from the project’s qualitative and quantitative efforts will be presented. Our ultimate aim of this project is to inform the creation of classroom practices that improve students’ ability to develop, recognize, and improve their own engineering intuition. Select References: Authors (2020). Dreyfus, Stuart E., and Hubert L. Dreyfus. A five-stage model of the mental activities involved in directed skill acquisition. No. ORC-80-2. California Univ Berkeley Operations Research Center, 1980. Smith, Anita. "Exploring the legitimacy of intuition as a form of nursing knowledge." Nursing Standard (through 2013) 23.40 (2009): 35. Simon, Herbert A. "Making management decisions: The role of intuition and emotion." Academy of Management Perspectives 1.1 (1987): 57-64.

Miskioglu, E., & Carberry, A., & Martin, K., & Kavale, S., & Bolton, C., & Aaron, C., & Roth, M. (2022, August), Update on is it Rocket Science or Brain Science? Developing an Approach to Measure Engineering Intuition Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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