Global Sources
EE Times-India
EE Times-India > EDA/IP

Weeding out culture of survival in engineering education

Posted: 06 Nov 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:engineering  Mark Somerville  David E. Goldberg 

How do we change the mindset that engineers can also save lives?

It's going to take a while. There are some great efforts around to try to change the image of engineering. Right now, people think of engineering in terms of Dilbert as where they associate science with the Nobel Prize. How many people know who won the Draper Prize? There is a branding problem. While we're working on that branding, we also need to address the problem of how we prepare engineers. If we get high-school students excited about engineering and then in their first calculus class, the professor says "look to your left, look to your right. Two of the three of you won't graduate," that's false advertising. That practice still exists on most college campuses.

What's your impression of the "maker" movement? Do you think things like Raspberry Pi are opening up a new generation of engineers?

The maker movement is very exciting. It has the potential for some real positive change in engineering education. The maker community culture is very empowering. There's a lot of opportunity in engineering education if we embrace that culture. It gives people a feeling of "I can do it." It's all about intrinsic motivation and a growth mindset, giving people the feeling that "if I keep doing this, I can get better at it."

How do you integrate the maker culture into engineering education?

We can start by questioning some of the premises we have from our own educational background. Engineering educators often make the assumption of "they can't do that yet, they need more background." That is, you need to have enough of a math, science, and engineering background before you can design and realise something in the world. That's clearly not the case in the maker community. People are building things without having the background. In some cases, they're making some really bad design decisions but they're learning an enormous amount and raising their self-esteem. Anyone who has designed a product knows that the reason you build a prototype to learn and make a better design on the next iteration.

The maker ethos is not a totally radical idea, it's being done all over. It's important to get students to work as engineers in their first year of college as opposed to working as students in science and math for three years, then working as an engineer in a senior design class. I think that if students work as engineers designing things right away, they'll be a lot more engaged in their education.

How do you think FIRST Robotics and other programmes help people decide to study engineering?

We see an enormous number of students from FIRST. Those who have done FIRST are really jazzed about building things seeing them happen, and about learning in that mode.

FIRST is fabulous. They not only get people to learn how to build things, but they have a great culture. They believe in "cooperation" and "gracious professionalism" that are part of the ethos. That is, if another team's robot is broken, you help them fix it. You learn to work not only within your team, but with other teams. There's always a cooperative element. The first-round competitions are celebrations of engineering.

I've seen, even at the high-school level, the philosophy that it's OK to make mistakes, but ultimately, you have to get it right. At what point do you say "You've made many mistakes and you've learned a lot, but you're still not getting it right?"

Today, the people who worry most about getting things right are engineering professors. It's not enough that students just try things. They have to learn from those mistakes and instructors must create an experience where students take the time to look back and study what they did wrong and how would they to that differently in the future. As seniors, students should not be making the same mistakes they did in their first year. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn but in the end, you have to deliver something that works.

If a student goes through school where mistakes are tolerated and even encouraged, will that translate into the real world where management wants things done right the first time?

We all understand that new designs can take several iterations, but ultimately, you have to get the design right. You have to know when it's acceptable to make a mistake. Just because in the real world, things have to be right in the end but in education, there has to be some tolerance for mistakes.

 First Page Previous Page 1 • 2 • 3 Next Page Last Page

Comment on "Weeding out culture of survival in e..."
*  You can enter [0] more charecters.
*Verify code:


Visit Asia Webinars to learn about the latest in technology and get practical design tips.


Go to top             Connect on Facebook      Follow us on Twitter      Follow us on Orkut

Back to Top