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Using Research To Educate Freshman Engineers And High School Students About The Multidisciplinary Character Of Engineering

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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

Assessing Perceptions of Engineers and Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1407.1 - 11.1407.15



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Paper Authors


Olga Pierrakos Virginia Tech

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Olga Pierrakos is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech. Her current research endeavors involve flow characterization and vortex dynamics of left ventricular flows using an experimental fluid mechanics method, Particle Image Velocimetry. She is expected to complete her Ph.D. December 2005.

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Michael Alley Virginia Tech

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Michael Alley is an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He is the author of The Craft of Scientific Presentations (Springer-Verlag, 2003).

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Pavlos Vlachos Virginia Tech

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Dr. Pavlos Vlachos has been an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Virginia Tech since 2003. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens (1995) and his M.S. (1998) and Ph.D. (2000) in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech. His research focuses on experimental fluid mechanics addressing a variety of flows: primarily wall bounded flows, vortex dynamics, biofluid mechanics, and multi-phase flows.

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

Using Research to Educate Freshman Engineers and High School Students About the Multidisciplinary Character of Engineering


Approximately 62% of the undergraduate students who graduated in 2000 with an engineering B.S. in the United States received their degree from Research I and II institutions. 1 Although these universities successfully recruit their undergraduates by proudly displaying their research infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities, a vast majority of these students graduate without ever being exposed to these assets. Even those students who are introduced to research often remain oblivious to the rich research diversity and the multi-disciplinary culture of engineering. This is an increasingly important concern because the future engineer is expected to adapt to a varying and continuously evolving environment while simultaneously being able to operate outside the narrow limits of one discipline, crossing over boundaries and interfacing between different fields. In recent years, the Boyer Commission,1 the National Science Foundation,2 the American Association for the Advancement of Science,3 and the National Research Council4 have urged universities to “make research-based learning the standard” for undergraduate education. Participation in research deepens a student’s understanding and promotes the communication and teamwork needed to solve complex problems. Enabling students to be part of the intellectual process instills in them a sense of fulfillment and imparts life-long benefits. A report, released on June 2005 by the National Academy of Engineering, further supports these arguments.5 The report considered current engineering education inadequate to prepare future engineers and suggested that BS graduates should be considered engineers in training and an MS should be a professional degree. This finding illustrates the need at the undergraduate level for “research based learning” which is inherent in the graduate level but almost non-existent in the undergraduate level. To achieve this research based learning at the undergraduate level, a new educational paradigm is needed that demands a commitment to the intellectual growth of individual students, redefines the role of engineering in society, and stimulates students to pursue careers in engineering and research. These goals can be accomplished by integrating research into engineering education, serving to increase recruitment and retention, and enabling future engineers to become society leaders. To pursue these goals, we have initiated an effort to translate state-of-the-art research to the classroom by bridging the gap between research and education in a way that will reinvent and energize the classroom environment and motivate the students to become lifelong learners and contributors to societal needs through engineering practice. In this effort, we have placed particular emphasis on transferring research to groups underrepresented in engineering. This effort also encourages the students to engage in hands-on research. The progression of research transfer through the different levels of engineering education is illustrated in Figure 1. At the end of this development ladder, we find the future, interdisciplinary engineers who are leaders in industry, technology, and academia. In this effort, via research transfer and examples, another goal is the recruitment of middle school and high school students and the retention of freshman engineers. Recruiting and retention can be

Pierrakos, O., & Alley, M., & Vlachos, P. (2006, June), Using Research To Educate Freshman Engineers And High School Students About The Multidisciplinary Character Of Engineering Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--857

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