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What Does It Mean To Be An Engineer? The 2001 Challenge To Engineering Educators

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Tomorrow's Civil Engineering Profession

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1310.1 - 7.1310.8



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Paper Authors

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KC Mahboub

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Anna Phillips

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Paul Palazolo

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Scott Yost

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Session 2615

What does it mean to be an engineer? The 2001 Challenge to Engineering Educators

S. Yost, A. Phillips, P. Palazolo, K.C. Mahboub Univ. of Kentucky/Univ. of Memphis/ Univ. of Memphis/ Univ. of Kentucky

Abstract Dean Kamen’s keynote speech at the 2001 ASEE National Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico asked some tough questions of engineering educators. Primarily, Kamen questioned what we are doing to represent engineering as a viable career choice in comparison to the widespread appeal of lucrative sports careers, which promise to pay young people extraordinary amounts of money. His conclusion was that we are not really doing very much at all, and he predicted dire consequences for our society at local, national, and international levels if such negligence continues.

In response to Kamen’s challenge to engineering educators to take proactive steps, four faculty members from two large urban universities decided to investigate the situation at our own universities and in our own communities: • Were we failing to reach out to students and potential students in our communities? • Were these students indeed expecting sports careers with the commensurate salaries? • If so, as engineering educators, what did we have to counteroffer?

What started as a casual inquiry evolved into a formal survey designed to determine who our engineers-in-training today are, why they are seeking engineering education, and how they believe engineering fits into Kamen’s “big picture”. The first step in characterizing the perception of our profession was to obtain a view of the students. We surveyed over 300 engineering students, most of them aspiring civil engineers, at different stages in their education to learn about their motivations, perceptions, and knowledge of the profession. This paper presents our findings along with an example of our survey instrument in hopes of extending this project to other institutions.

Introduction How many keynote speeches does anyone actually remember? Don’t most people attend keynote activities because they usually offer free food and a conference agenda? Dean Kamen’s 2001 Keynote speech to the ASEE National Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico was quite decidedly a keynote speech to remember.1 Whether you agree with Kamen’s assessment that engineering educators are doing little to nothing to ensure the future of engineering as a viable professional choice or not, there is little doubt that anyone who heard Kamen’s speech could

"Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2002, American Society for Engineering Education"

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Mahboub, K., & Phillips, A., & Palazolo, P., & Yost, S. (2002, June), What Does It Mean To Be An Engineer? The 2001 Challenge To Engineering Educators Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10285

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