Posts about engineering education

Engineering Innovation Summer Camp

Summer engineering program fosters genuine interest for some students

Engineering Innovation, which Johns Hopkins has taken nationwide since 2006, is designed to encourage students to pursue careers in engineering and science. According to the university, 90 percent of students who participate in the summer program continue on that path.

Shiesha McNeil, 16, discovered a new potential career during the four-week course. Shiesha — whose bridge held 49 water bottles — had never worked with electric circuits before the class, and she became enthralled with the science behind electricity.

Shiesha is looking at the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University. She wants to be a software or computer engineer. “I’ve never worked with electricity like that before,” she said. “I got to work with circuits! I got to make a robot move!”

Related: Infinity Project: Engineering Education for Today’s ClassroomFun k-12 Science and Engineering LearningHands-on Engineering EducationLego Learning

Green Technology Innovation by College Engineering Students

With prizes totaling more than $100,000 in value, this year’s Climate Leadership Challenge is believed to be the most lucrative college or university competition of its kind in the country. The contest was open to all UW-Madison students.

A device that would help provide electricity efficiently and at low cost in rural areas of developing countries took the top prize – $50,000 – this week in a student competition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for innovative ideas to counteract climate change.

The “microformer” is the brainchild of Jonathan Lee, Dan Ludois, and Patricio Mendoza, all graduate students in electrical engineering. Besides the cash prize, they will receive a promotional trip worth $5,000 and an option for a free one-year lease in the University Research Park’s new Metro Innovation Center on Madison’s east side.

“We really want to see implementation of the best ideas offered,” said Tracey Holloway, director of the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at UW-Madison, which staged the contest for the second year in a row. “The purpose of this competition is to make an impact on climate change.”

The runner-up for the “most action-ready idea” was a proposal to promote the use of oil from Jatropha curcas plants to fuel special cooking stoves in places like Haiti. UW-Madison seniors Eyleen Chou (mechanical engineering), Jason Lohr (electrical engineering), Tyler Lark (biomedical engineering/mathematics) won $10,000 for their scheme to reduce deforestation by lowering demand for wood charcoal as a cooking fuel.

CORE Concept, a technology that would cut emissions from internal combustion engines by using a greater variety of fuels, won mechanical engineering doctoral students Sage Kokjohn, Derek Splitter, and Reed Hanson $15,000 as the “most innovative technical solution.”

SnowShoe, a smart phone application that would enable shoppers to check the carbon footprint of any item in a grocery store by scanning its bar code, won $15,000 as the “most innovative non-technical solution.” Graduate students Claus Moberg (atmospheric and oceanic science), Jami Morton (environment and resources), and Matt Leudtke (civil and environmental engineering) submitted the idea.

Other finalists were REDCASH, a plan to recycle desalination wastewater for carbon sequestration and hydrogen fuel production, by doctoral student Eric Downes (biophysics) and senior Ian Olson (physics/engineering physics); and Switch, an energy management system that integrates feedback and incentives into social gaming to reduce personal energy use, by doctoral students David Zaks (environment and resources) and Elizabeth Bagley (environment and resources/educational psychology).

Related: University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Challenge AgainCollegiate Inventors Competition$10 Million X Prize for 100 MPG Car

University of Wisconsin-Stout Wins 2010 Rube Goldberg Contest

University of Wisconsin-Stout wins 2010 Rube Goldberg contest

The team’s machine was called “Valley of the Kings” and had an Egyptian theme, telling a tale of events following the death of King Tut.

The task for the Rube Goldberg machines this year was to dispense sanitizer into a hand. Wisconsin-Stout’s machine dispensed the sanitizer into a mummy’s hand. The Rube Goldberg competition, sponsored by Phi Chapter of Theta Tau fraternity, rewards machines that most effectively combine creativity with inefficiency and complexity.

Machines must use at least 20 steps to complete the task in no more than two minutes. Teams have three tries to complete two runs. Points are deducted if students have to assist the machine once it has started. The Wisconsin-Stout machine has 120 steps. The team completed two perfect runs with no interventions in about a minute and a half each.

St. Olaf’ College of Northfield, Minn., last year’s national winner, took second place with a medieval-themed machine. Pennsylvania State University placed third with an “Indiana Jones” theme.

Related: Rube Goldberg Machine Contest (2005)Goldbergian Flash Fits Rube Goldberg Web SiteBotball 2009 FinalsUW- Madison Wins 4th Concrete Canoe Competition

Infinity Project: Engineering Education for Today’s Classroom

The Infinity Project is a national middle school, high school, and early college engineering curricula. The math and science-based engineering and technology education initiative helps educators deliver a maximum of engineering exposure with a minimum of training, expense and time. Created to help students see the real value of math and science and its varied applications to high tech engineering – The Infinity Project is working with schools all across the country to bring the best of engineering to their students.

The Infinity Project curriculum is a complete, year-long course designed to complement the existing mix of math and science classes. Experience in classrooms all across the United States shows that Infinity keeps students challenged, learning and exploring from start to finish. Using The Infinity Project curriculum in the classroom, students learn firsthand how to use math and science to create and design a wide variety of new and exciting technologies that focus on topics of interest to students – the Internet and cell phones, digital video and movie special effects, and electronic music.

Engineering Our Digital Future is designed for early college students or high school students who have completed Algebra II and at least one science course. The course focuses on the fundamentals of modern engineering and technology in the information and communications age.

Related: Hands-on Engineering EducationEducation Resources for Science and Engineeringposts on engineering educationFund Teacher’s Science Projects

Graduate Engineering and Professional Education @UMichigan

Dilbert’s bosses broke the video link (so I removed it) – not a good sign that they will succeed in my eyes. If they can’t follow basic web usability guidelines it doesn’t make me want to spend time on them.

Engineering TV is a site with lots of good webcasts for engineers: “by engineers for engineers! Focused on technical B2B engineering topics”. In the embedded webcast Dr. Ann Marie Sastry, Director of the Energy Systems Engineering Program at the University of Michigan, discusses a collaboration between GM and the University of Michigan in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Engineering and Professional Education Programs. This is a good example of university and business collaboration.

Related: Directory of site with science and engineering webcastsScience Postercastsposts on engineering educationScience and Engineering Lectures from VideoLectures.Netprevious post on Engineering TV

How the Practice and Instruction of Engineering Must Change

Chief Scientist for the Rocky Mountain Institute and MacArthur Fellow, Amory Lovins, describes how small gains in efficiency at the consumption point can trigger gains that are magnitudes larger at higher levels and discusses how engineering must be practiced and taught fundamentally different.

Related: MIT Hosts Student Vehicle Design Summit59 MPG Toyota iQ Diesel Available in EuropeWebcast: Engineering Education in the 21st Century

White Paper on Engineering Leadership Education

Engineering leadership education is emerging as a topic in engineering institutions worldwide. But the review of international “best practices” in engineering leadership education says a lack of resources, expertise, and formal networks in the nascent field is causing concern in a profession threatened by a diminishing focus on the notion of the “engineer-as-doer.”

Commissioned by the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, the new white paper, Engineering Leadership Education: A Snapshot”© Review”© of International Good”© Practice, reveals that the vast majority of engineering leadership education programs are based within the U.S. and most are relatively new (developed in the last five years). The white paper highlights the distinct divide between the U.S. and the rest of the world in both attitude and approach to engineering leadership education.

“As a sub-discipline, engineering leadership education is not yet on the radar of most engineering education experts outside the U.S.,” said Dr. Edward Crawley, Director of the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program. “Certainly for many of the programs outside the U.S., there’s some discomfort with the notion of ‘leadership education’, as they feel this concept runs counter to their educational culture of inclusiveness and equality.”

The report was conducted by Dr. Ruth Graham in a series of interviews between September 2008 and March 2009. Dr. Graham investigated more than 40 programs, seeking to provide an insight into current practice, highlight international variations in approach, and identify examples of good practice.

One major ”©current ”©trend”© in ”©engineering”© leadership ”©education”© is ”©the ”©development ”©of”© the ”©students’”© global ”©awareness”© and”© their ”©ability ”©to ”©work ”©on ”©complex”©cross”national”© projects”© – ”©which”© is”© seen ”©by many”© as”© the ”©environment”© within ”©which”© the”© engineering ”©leader”© of ”©the ”©future ”©will ”©need ”©to ”©operate. ”©
Many”© of ”©the ”©programs ”©which ”©were ”©most ”©highly ”©rated ”©by ”©interviewees ”©incorporate ”©some”© global”© elements ”©either ”©through ”©international ”©travel, ”©remote”© link”ups”© with”© overseas”© universities/companies ”©or ”©project”© briefs”© involving ”©an”© international ”©or”© cross”cultural”© context.”© ”©The trend ”©towards”© a ”©more”© ‘global’ ”©view”© of ”©leadership ”©education”© was ”©seen ”©by ”©many ”©of ”©the”© interviewees”© as”© one”© that ”©would”© continue.”©
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Learning Design of Experiments with Paper Helicopters

Paper helicopter stairwell dropPhoto showing the helicopter test track by Brad

Dr. George E.P. Box wrote a great paper on Teaching Engineers Experimental Design With a Paper Helicopter that can be used to learn principles of experimental design, including – conditions for validity of experimentation, randomization, blocking, the use of factorial and fractional factorial designs and the management of experimentation.

I ran across an interesting blog post on a class learning these principles today – Brad’s Hella-Copter:

For our statistics class, we have been working hard on a Design of Experiments project that optimizes a paper helicopter with respect to hang time an accuracy of a decent down a stairwell.

We were to design a helicopter that would drop 3 stories down within the 2ft gap between flights of stairs.

[design of experiments is] very powerful when you have lots of variables (ie. paper type, helicopter blade length, blade width, body height, body width, paperclip weights, etc) and not a lot of time to vary each one individually. If we were to individually change each variable one at a time, we would have made over 256 different helicopters. Instead we built 16, tested them, and got a feel for which variables were most important. We then focused on these important variables for design improvement through further testing and optimization.

Related: 101 Ways to Design an Experiment, or Some Ideas About Teaching Design of Experiments by William G. Hunter (my father) – posts on design of experimentsGeorge Box on quality improvementDesigned ExperimentsAutonomous Helicopters Teach Themselves to FlyStatistics for Experimenters

S&P 500 CEO’s: Engineers Stay at the Top

2008 Data from Spencer Stuart on S&P 500 CEO (link broken so it was removed, it is so sad that companies still pay people to manage web sites that don’t even understand basic web usability principles such as web pages must live forever) shows once again more have undergraduate degrees in engineering than any other field, increasing to 22% of CEO’s this year.

% of CEOs

Engineering 22 21 23 20
Economics 16 15 13 11
Business Administration 13 13 12 15
Accounting 9 8 8 7
Liberal Arts 6 6 8 9
No degree or no data 3 3

In 1990 Engineering majors accounted for 6% of the bachelor’s degrees in the USA (1970 5%, 1980 7%). Business accounted for 23% of the majors in 1990 (1970 14%, 1980 21%). Liberal arts 3% in 1980 (1970 1%, 1980 2%).

The report does not show the fields for the rest of the CEO’s. 39% of S&P CEOs have MBAs. 28% have other advanced degrees. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard tied for the most CEO’s with undergraduate degrees from their universities at 13. Princeton and the University of Texas had 9 and Stanford had 8.

While the CEO’s have engineering education backgrounds the work they have done is often in other functions. The top function that CEO’s that have worked in during their careers: Operations (42%), Finance (31%), Marketing (24%), Sales (17%), Engineering (11%).

Data for previous years is also from Spencer Stuart: S&P 500 CEOs are Engineering Graduates (2007 data) 2006 S&P 500 CEO Education StudyTop degree for S&P 500 CEOs? Engineering (2005 study)

Related: Another Survey Shows Engineering Degree Results in the Highest PayScience and Engineering Degrees lead to Career SuccessThe Future is Engineering

Another Survey Shows Engineering Degree Results in the Highest Pay

The PayScale salary survey looked at both starting and mid career salary. Engineering topped both measures. Of the top 10 mid career salaries, 7 were engineering degrees – including the top 4. The survey is based upon data for full-time employees in the United States who possess a Bachelor’s degree and no higher degrees and have majored in the subjects listed above.

The top 11 paying degrees are:

Highest Paid Undergrad College Degrees
Degree Starting Median Salary Mid-Career Median Salary
Aerospace Engineering $59,600 $109,000
Chemical Engineering $65,700 $107,000
Computer Engineering $61,700 $105,000
Electrical Engineering $60,200 $102,000
Economics $50,200 $101,000
Physics $51,100 $98,800
Mechanical Engineering $58,900 $98,300
Computer Science $56,400 $97,400
Industrial Engineering $57,100 $95,000
Environmental Engineering $53,400 $94,500
Statistics $48,600 $94,500

Related: Engineering Graduates Paid Well Again in 2008High Pay for Engineering Graduates in 2007Engineering Graduates Get Top Salary Offers in 2006posts on science and engineering careersposts on engineering education

Research findings Contradict Myth of High Engineering Dropout Rate

Research findings suggest that, contrary to popular belief, engineering does not have a higher dropout rate than other majors and women do just as well as men, information that could lead to a strategy for boosting the number of U.S. engineering graduates.

“Education lore has always told us that students – particularly women – drop out of undergraduate engineering programs more often than students in other fields,” said Matthew Ohland, an associate professor in Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education. “Well, it turns out that neither is true. Engineering programs, on average, retain just as many students as other programs do, and once women get to college they’re just as likely to stick around in engineering as are their male counterparts.”

The research also shows that hardly any students switch to engineering from other majors, pointing to a potential strategy for increasing the number of U.S. engineering graduates, Ohland said.

“A huge message in these findings is that engineering students are amazingly like those in other disciplines, but we need to do more to attract students to engineering programs,” he said. “If you look at who graduates with a degree in social sciences, 50 percent of them started in social sciences, and for other sciences it’s about 60 percent. If you look at who graduates with a degree in engineering, however, 93 percent of them started in engineering. The road is narrow for students to migrate into engineering from other majors.”

Findings were drawn largely from a database that includes 70,000 engineering students from nine institutions in the southeastern United States. Ohland manages the database, called the Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Development, which followed students over a 17-year period ending in 2005.

Data show that the nine institutions vary dramatically in how well they retain engineering students over eight semesters, ranging from 66 percent to 37 percent. Those findings indicate policies and practices at some institutions may serve to retain students better than those at other institutions.

The findings suggest educators should develop a two-pronged approach to increase the number of engineering graduates: identify which programs best retain students and determine why they are effective, and develop programs and policies that allow students to more easily transfer into engineering from other majors.

Related: S&P 500 CEOs are Engineering GraduatesUSA Under-counting Engineering GraduatesNational Science Board Report on Improving Engineering EducationWomen Choosing Other Fields Over Engineering and MathWebcast: Engineering Education in the 21st Century
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