The Future of Engineering Education

Posted on December 10, 2005  Comments (0)

The future of engineering education an interview with Emma Shepherdson who studied this topic for her doctorate at MIT.

The student’s experience is not passive, she is forced to engage in a dialogue with the module as she proceeds through it. Her progress is fully controlled, ensuring she interacts appropriately with the material; and yet the environment still allows for a sense of play and experimentation. This effectively engages the student through continuous deep feedback, tailored specifically to the student’s own interaction with the material.

Also on the ARUP site: Time to push the secret art of engineering by Richard Haryott:

In the United Kingdom alone, applications in most disciplines – and certainly those in the built environment – have fallen by some 50 per cent in five years and they are still falling.

The problem is not confined to the UK but effects, to a greater or lesser extent, much of the western world. There are, no doubt, many reasons for this. Arguably one of the greatest is that the understanding that engineering is a highly creative art – albeit one requiring a deep understanding of the exciting sciences that underpin it – remains something of a secret.

Save Tulane Engineering

Posted on December 9, 2005  Comments (0)

A new blog called Save Tulane Engineering was started today and is already very active. Tulale is located in New Orleans and announced, yesterday, actions to cope with the results of Huricane Katrina.

Save Tulane Engineering:

Through our ingenuity, Tulane Engineers will enable our leaders to reinvent Tulane, without the loss of its most important institution. If you, or anyone else have statistics regarding Engineering at Tulane such as per capita earnings, grant numbers, donation numbers, or scholarship recipients please let me now. We, Mary McCarty (Biomedical), Laura Wells (Biomedical), Shawn Sarwar (Biomedical), Justin Mikowski (Computer Engineering) and Will Clarkson (Computer Engineering), are spearheading an initiative to save our school. But we can’t do this ourselves.

Tulane to lay off hundreds:

All engineering majors except biomedical engineering and chemical engineering will be eliminated. Students in discontinued programs will be allowed to continue if they can finish by May 2007.

After Katrina, A Leaner Tulane, Washington Post:

Tulane, the largest employer in New Orleans, expects 86 percent of its students to return next month. Although it did not suffer insurmountable damage, the university still faces a $200 million deficit because of recovery efforts and loss of revenue. The university’s operating budget for fiscal 2005 was $593 million, according to its Web site.

Humorous Take on the Language of Engineers

Posted on December 9, 2005  Comments (1)

A humorous take on the language of engineers from Xooglers (former Googlers):

Orthogonal – Engineers are always talking about things being orthogonal to each other. The first time I heard the term, I thought it meant something like “11-sided.” It doesn’t. I’ve read the definition many times. I still don’t really get it, which didn’t stop me from casually dropping it into conversations with engineers. “Oh, yeah, that press release is totally orthogonal to the ads we’re running on Yahoo.”

Non-trivial – It means impossible. Since no engineer is going to admit something is impossible, they use this word instead. When an engineer says something is “non-trivial,” it’s the equivalent of an airline pilot calmly telling you that you might encounter “just a bit of turbulence” as he flies you into a cat 5 hurricane.

Have a nice weekend.

USA Science and Engineering Doctorates Hold Steady

Posted on December 8, 2005  Comments (0)

Statistics from NSF

1995 2000 2004
Total S&E Doctorates 29,533 26,536 26,275

NSF also indicates 33% of all doctorates (including those outside science and engineering) went to non-USA citizens in 2004 compared to 32% in 1995. It is not surprising that the percentage of non-USA-citizen doctorate degrees, awarded in the USA, is much higher for many science and engineering fields (65% in engineering, 56% in mathematics, 55% in physics). It might be surprising to many people that 56% of computer science doctorates were awarded to non-USA citizens.

More detailed data on Science and Engineering Doctorate Awards is available from NSF.

NASA Telerobotic Competition

Posted on December 8, 2005  Comments (1)

NASA Announces Telerobotic Construction Competition

“The Telerobotic Challenge may directly affect how exploration is conducted on the moon,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Scott Horowitz. “If the Challenge can successfully demonstrate the remote assembly of simple and complex structures, many aspects of exploration in general will be affected for the better.”

This Challenge will be conducted in an arena containing scattered structural building blocks. The task is to assemble the structure using multiple robotic agents remotely controlled by humans. The operators may only see and talk to the robots through communications’ equipment that simulates Earth-moon time delays and restrictions. The robots must be smart enough to work together with only intermittent human direction to be successful.

Rules will be finalized in early 2006 and the competition will go into 2007. This is part of the NASA Centennial Challenges in which prizes seek to stimulate innovation and competition in solar system exploration and ongoing NASA mission areas.

Massive Project Will Reveal How Humans Continue to Evolve

Posted on December 8, 2005  Comments (0)

Massive Project Will Reveal How Humans Continue to Evolve by Gregory Mone

By comparing differences among those groups’ DNA, HapMap gives scientists a better shot at distinguishing the genetic factors involved in disease from the environmental ones. Ultimately, it will help them explain why, for instance, some people have a higher or lower risk of certain illnesses. And once scientists understand how deleterious genes affect various populations, they’ll be better equipped to develop more-effective, targeted drugs to combat them.

What Are Viruses?

Posted on December 7, 2005  Comments (4)

What Are Viruses?, from the excellent Science In Action blog:

Viruses are small, from about 20 nanometers to about 400 nanometers in size. (A bacterial cell is generally in the range of 0.5 to 5.0 micrometers in size. A micrometer is one thousand times bigger than a nanometer, so bacteria are hundreds of times larger than viruses.)

Viruses cannot be killed by antibiotics. Antibiotics kill or stop the growth of bacteria, not viruses. Using antibiotics to try to control viral diseases like colds and flu just hastens the day those antibiotics will be useless against dangerous bacteria, because exposing populations of bacteria to antibiotics gives them a chance to evolve defenses against the drugs.

Formula One Race Car Engineering by Students

Posted on December 7, 2005  Comments (1)

Schools Innovation Design Challenge National Finals, Australia:

Victoria University set up the Victorian arm of the project, which involved 18 secondary schools from metropolitan and regional Victoria for Years 7-10 students to design, manufacture, test and race model F1 cars.

VU’s Program Manager Schools, Joe Micallef said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for secondary students, who have been able to use sophisticated engineering technology – some of which professional engineers haven’t even used yet.”

And the students are not just competing for honour, the outright national champions will receive an all-expenses -paid trip to the UK to represent Australia at the World Finals next January.

Formula One team success for Longreach students

Fast-tracking engineering knowhow:

“We’re trying to get kids interested in engineering and manufacturing careers,” said Re-Engineering Australia national project manager Paul Bray.

“So we’re giving them access to the same tools that are being used by industry to design and make these things so they can see that it really is practical and fun.”

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST)

Posted on December 7, 2005  Comments (3)

Students at FIRST Robotics competition

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) is a “multinational non-profit organization, that aspires to transform culture, making science, math, engineering, and technology as cool for kids as sports are today.”

FIRST Robotics Competition – In 2005 the competition reached close to 25,000 high-school-aged young people on close to 1,000 teams in 30 competitions. Teams came from Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Israel, Mexico, the U.K., and almost every U.S. state.

The FIRST Vexâ„¢ Challenge (FVC) is a pilot, mid-level robotics competition for high-school students. It offers the traditional challenge of a FIRST competition but with a more accessible and affordable robotics kit. FIRST is currently piloting the FIRST Vex Challenge as a potential FIRST program.

China, Germany to Join Hands in Engineering Education

Posted on December 6, 2005  Comments (0)

China, Germany to Join Hands in Engineering Education from China’s People’s Daily:

Chinese and German engineering experts convened Monday in Beijing to discuss future cooperation in engineering education and mutual accreditation.

The Symposium on Perspectives of Sino-German Cooperation in Realm of Engineering Education and Accreditation, co-sponsored by the Chinese Association for Science and Technology (CAST) and the Association of German Engineers, is expected to shape the future accreditation of engineers between China and Germany.

Chinese Association for Science and TechnologyEnglish section of the site:

On July 4, Chinese Vice-President Zeng Qinghong joined the residents and children of the capital in activities marking the National Science Popularization Day. He expressed his cordial greetings to the nation’s scientific and technological workers and volunteers devoted to the cause of science popularization. He stressed that science popularization is a basic work concerning the development and prosperity of the nation, which needs the continuous endeavor of the whole society. It is necessary to sum up experience, intensify the science popularization work in the rural areas, enterprises, schools, communities and households and push it onto a new stage, remarked Zeng.

Engineering in America

Posted on December 5, 2005  Comments (2)

America’s High-Tech Quandary by Charles Murray

Reliable statistics are few, but numbers published by the National Science Foundation (NSF) indicate that engineering students are a small minority in U.S. colleges. In 2000, NSF figures showed that just 4.7 percent of U.S. undergrad degrees went to engineers, while 38.7 percent of the undergrad degrees in China were awarded to engineering students.
Country First university degrees Engineering degrees Percentage
China 567,839 219.563 38.7%
Taiwan 117,430 26,587 22.6%
Germany 178,618 36,319 20.3%
Japan 542,314 104,478 19.3%
France 275,316 34,293 12.4%
Ireland 18,669 2,014 10.8%
United Kingdom 274,440 20,280 7.4%
Kenya 15,620 740 4.7%
United States 1,253,121 59,536 4.7%
The situation has been brewing for more than a decade, say academics. During that time, China’s leaders have repeatedly expressed a desire to emphasize engineering in their universities. Today, with all nine of the country’s Politburo Standing Committee—the top tier of the Communist party—being engineers, the vision has become more focused than ever. Chinese officials reportedly are aiming for 50 percent of the country’s college graduates to come from engineering. Today, the figure hovers between 35 to 45 percent, according to the best estimates.

On the lack of engineering students in the USA:

A combination of factors—salaries and public image, as well as offshoring of jobs to Asia—has made engineering appear undesirable to high school kids who might otherwise choose it as a career path.

Ok, the article makes some good points but I don’t think this is one of them. Salaries look pretty good. Public may not be great but it doesn’t explain much of the shortfall. Hard work, yes I believe that discourages many studnets. Difficult path, yes. Not enough effort to encourage science and engineering education, yes. But sorry I don’t believe salaries, public image and offshoring are the combination of factors resulting in turning high school students away from engineering.