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Missing Basics: What Engineers Don't Learn and Why They Don't Learn Them
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Missing Basics: What Engineers Don't Learn and Why They Don't Learn Them



Talk presented at Dublin launch of new volume "Engineering in Context."

Talk presented at Dublin launch of new volume "Engineering in Context."



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    Missing Basics: What Engineers Don't Learn and Why They Don't Learn Them Missing Basics: What Engineers Don't Learn and Why They Don't Learn Them Presentation Transcript

    • The Missing Basics:What Engineers Don’t Learn & Why They Don’t Learn Them
      David E. GoldbergIllinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering EducationUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbana, IL 61801 USAdeg@illinois.edu
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Engineering Education Reform in the Air
      Many calls for reform.
      Many lists the same:
      Need more “design.”
      Need more people skills.
      Need better “communications.”
      Yet change comes slowly, if at all.
      Steadfast defense of “the basics” against “soft” subjects & other foreign invaders.
      Failure to pass change when agreement exists.
      Reflect on missing elements & why they’re missing.
      Warning: Systems view ahead, no silver bullets.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Roadmap
      Reflections upon 19 years coaching industrial-sponsored engineering senior design.
      7 things engineers don’t learn.
      5 reasons they don’t learn them: philosophical, historical, organizational, systemic & economic.
      Moving the larger system: Political realignment for organizational realignment.
      Philosophy as realignment aid.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • General Engineering & Senior Design
      General Engineering at UIUC established in 1921 following curriculum study.
      Grinter report of 1955 led to more math and engineering science at expense of design.
      UCLA conference 1962.
      Ford Foundation grant 1966.
      Money ran out 1971.
      Industrial funding supports thereafter.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
      Jerry S. Dobrovolny
    • Ready, Set, Go
      These are seniors.
      Should be engineers on the threshold.
      Express preferences for projects.
      Get assigned to a project: 3-member teams & faculty advisor.
      Go on the plant trip.
      Query: What don’t they know how to do?
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Failure 1: Inability to Ask
      • Don’t know how to frame or ask good questions.
      • Difficulty probing the problem.
      • Trouble querying what has been tried.
      • Problem learning about vendors and sources of information.
      • Historical terms: Socrates 101.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
      Socrates (470-399 BCE)
    • Failure 2: Inability to Label
      • Don’t know names of common systems, assemblies, and components of technology.
      • Difficulty labeling new artifact concepts or models.
      • Linguistically naïve.
      • Mainly comfortable with familiar categories and objects.
      • Historical terms: Aristotle 101.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
      Aristotle (384-322 BCE)
    • Failure 3: Inability to Model
      • Don’t know how to model conceptually:
      • As causal chain.
      • As categorical list of types or kinds.
      • Pavlovian dogs when it comes to equations.
      • Need to understand problem qualitatively in words and diagrams prior to quantitative modeling undertaking.
      • Historical terms: Hume 101 or Aristotle 102.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
      David Hume (1711-1776)
    • Failure 4: Inability to Decompose
      • Don’t know how to decompose big problem into little problems.
      • Look for magic bullets in equations of motion.
      • Most projects too hard: Companies don’t pay $8500 for plugging into Newton’s laws.
      • Historical terms: Descartes 101?
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
      René Descartes (1596-1650)
    • Failure 5: Inability to Measure
      Don’t know how to measure stuff or collect data.
      Engineering taught as abstract math/science exercise.
      Ignore benefit of direct measurement.
      Historical terms: Locke 101 or Bacon 101?
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
      John Locke (1632-1704)
    • Failure 6: Inability to Visualize/Ideate
      Don’t know how to draw sketches or diagrams when helpful.
      Have trouble envisioning solutions.
      Graphics education greatly diminished.
      Historical terms: da Vinci or Monge 101.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Failure 7: Inability to Communicate
      • Finally finish the project.
      • Don’t know how to present or write for business.
      • “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
      • Historical terms: Newman 101.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
      Paul Newman (1925-2008)
    • The Missing Basics vs. the Basics
      Call these lacnuae the missing basics (MBs) vs. “the basics” = math, sci, & eng sci.
      After 4 years they don’t know how to
      Question: Socrates 101.
      Label: Aristotle 101.
      Model conceptually: Hume 101 & Aristotle 102.
      Decompose: Descartes 101.
      Measure: Bacon-Locke 101.
      Visualize/ideate: da Vinci-Monge 101.
      Communicate: Newman 101
      MBs as quality failure.
      5th century BC as pivotal moment in human thinking.
      MBs as keys to
      lifelong learning,
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • What Can They Do?
      Can plug & chug in Newton’s laws, Maxwell’s equations, and do big O.
      Can talk about limited categories of tech discussed in class.
      Can’t think qualitatively or reflectively.
      Heidegger’s beef: Science/tech as merely calculative. Many w/ humanities PhilTech (HPT) view want engineers to contemplate the “bigger picture.”
      More limited advocacy: Reflection (qualitative thinking) as central to engineering problem solving itself.
      This is failure of engineering education & liberal education.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
      Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)
    • Why Don’t They Learn MBs?
      Five reasons:
      Got stuck in cold war paradigm (historical).
      Mistook math-science for engineering (philosophical).
      Ignored organizational barriers (organizational).
      Believed isolated education scholarship & pedagogy results in effective reform (systemic).
      Ignored costs of reform proposals (economic).
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Cold War Curriculum in Creative Era
      In final days of Vannevar Bush era.
      Science: The Endless Frontier, set stage for NSF & research.
      Engineers accepted notion (myth?) that “science won the war.”
      1955 Grinter report spurred injection of math & science, reduction in design & practice.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Kuhn, Paradigms & Engin School
      “Paradigm” traces to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962.
      Argued that science proceeds in fits and starts, not gradually.
      Old paradigms, ways of thinking about the world, are overturned by revolutions, not gradually.
      Thomas S. Kuhn (1922-1996)
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Paradigm of Tech Academy
      Following assumptions sacrosanct:
      Basic engineering science key to success.
      Government funds superior to industry $$$.
      Demonstrate mettle as individuals with peer-reviewed journal papers in specialty.
      Question any  stare, derision & ridicule.
      These beliefs are not scientific.
      Case Western story: “Where’s the data?”
      Code words: “the basics,” “rigorous,” & “soft.”
      Invoking code words not an argument.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Creative Era & Missed Revolutions
      The paradigm was OK for WW2 & Cold War.
      Now a creative era, a flat world.
      Missed revolutions since WW2:
      Quality revolution.
      Entrepreneurial revolution.
      IT revolution.
      Teach the “revolutions,” but do not integrate lessons into academy or curriculum.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Technoeconomics of Now
      Place revolutions in framework of underlying causes.
      Missed revolutions enabled by technoeconomic effects:
      Transport and communication improvements.
      Network effects.
      Transaction costs.
      Puts past in perspective & project future trends.
      Karl Marx (1818-1883)
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • No Philosophy of Engineering
      Ontology, epistemology, and reasoning not taught, discussed.
      Assumed to come from “common sense” or “the basics.”
      “Design” as abused term & mysterious process.
      The 7 not usually articulated as fundamental to design.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • What is Engineering?
      Many definitions:
      Common view: Engineering is applied science.
      Von Karman: “A scientist discovers that which exists. An engineer creates that which never was.”
      Koen: Engineering is heuristics.
      Pitt: Technology is “humanity at work.”
      Mesthene: Technology is “the organization of knowledge for achievement of practical purpose.”
      Rogers: “Engineering refers to the practice of organizing the design and construction of any artifice which transforms the physical world around us to meet some recognized need.”
      Here: Engineering is the social practice of conceiving, designing, implementing, producing, & sustaining complex artifacts, processes, or systems appropriate to some recognized need.
      Artifacts primary object.
      Science & math are among tools used for artifact conception & support.
      Social practice Engineered by and for people.
      Social side as important as the physics.
      Searle’s distinctions:
      All engineered objects are observer relative.
      Engineers work in a social/institutional world constrained by nature.
      Needs are exogenous to this definition.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • 3Space as Balanced Curriculum
      Technological products important.
      Engineering is by and for people.
      Engineering thought includes but is not limited to math & science.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • ThingSpace as Example
      Moving away from an analysis-centered curriculum.
      Taking technological products seriously.
      Needs STS faculty involved to fill in the missing subjects.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Organizational Change Ignored
      • Academic NIMBY problem.
      • NIMBY = Not in my backyard.
      • “It is OK to change the curriculum…”
      • “….as long as you leave my course alone.”
      • Politics of logrolling: You support my not changing. I support your not changing.
      • Even though agreement for change is widespread, specific changes are resisted.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • iFoundry: Org Innovation for Change
      Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education:
      Curriculum change incubator. Permit change.
      Collaboration. Large, key ugrad programs work together. Easier approval if shared.
      Connections. Hook to depts, NAE, ABET (?), industry.
      Volunteers. Enthusiasm for change among participants.
      Existing authority. Use signatory authority for modification of curricula for immediate pilot.
      Respect faculty governance. Get pilot permission from the dept. and go back to faculty for vote after pilot change
      Assessment. Built-in assessment to overcome objections back home.
      Scalability. Past attempts at change like Olin fail to scale at UIUC and other big schools.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Fa09: The Students Are Coming
      100 freshmen, 11 depts.
      21 iFoundry fellows.
      Joy of X, X = Engineering, Learning, Community.
      Changes = ENG100++, HAPI themes + iCommunity activity.
      iCommunity = Teams + companies + faculty advisors + student mentors + teamwork/leadership training.
      New courses for 2010: UOCD, FBE, DN.
      Working with Art & Design to pilot Industrial Design course for engineers (UOCD).
      Working with Tech Entrepreneur Center to pilot biz course (FBE).
      Fa10 negotiotiation & study of pioneering curricula.
      iFoundry as dept tool: ethics & bioX.
    • Pedagogy & Ed Research Insufficient
      • Pedagogical improvement & ed scholarship is fundamental response of reform movement.
      • Teaching/assessing wrong stuff well a poor solution.
      • Getting one teacher to teach right stuff well doesn’t fix a broken system.
      • “Rigorous” A-B tests of one facet doesn’t realign a field suffering from misconception of itself.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Economics of Reform Ignored
      • Teach more design, but design is usually taught in studio setting or project course.
      • Reform efforts ignore continuing costs of pilot efforts.
      • Utopian hopes that research faculty will return to their love of undergraduate classroom.
      • Aside on off-the-cuff Utopian change suggestions: Duty for care in reflection & action.
      • Lecture is much maligned, but lectures are cheap:
      • Low preparation costs.
      • Low coordination costs.
      • Not arguing for lectures alone.
      • Am recommending hard look at costs & scalability: 300 versus 5300.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Moving the Larger System
      Engineering education is a larger, complex system.
      Organizational realignment needs political realignment as pressure sustaining change.
      A grassroots approach:
      Social-digital media usage.
      Olin-Illinois Partnership (OIP).
      Summit on the Engineer of the Future 2.0 (EotF2.0)
      Alliance for Promoting Innovation in Engineering Education (APIE2).
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Olin-Illinois Partnership
      Engineer of the Future Workshop, September 2007 (University of Illinois).
      Sherra Kerns (Olin) one of two keynote speakers.
      Continuing conversations & drafting of MOU for Olin-Illinois Partnership (OIP) in summer 2008.
      MOU signing 12 Sept 08.
      Planning for EotF2.0 began shortly thereafter.
      William Wulf (b. 1939)
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Philosophy as Realignment Tool
      Talk has used philosophical modes of thought & argumentation.
      Philosophy as
      Response to crisis of a creative era.
      Tool for category error diagnosis.
      Aid to achieving conceptual clarity.
      Pedagogy for teaching qualitative reasoning skills to engineers.
      Competing form of rigor to science & math.
      Status anxiety abatement device.
      Workshop on Philosophy & Engineering:http://www-illigal.ge.uiuc.edu/wpe
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Bottom Line
      Summing up:
      Senior design as way in.
      7 things engineers don’t learn.
      Connections to intellectual history.
      5 reasons why engineers don’t learn these things now or why they are hard to reform.
      Organizational, philosophy, and political modes of thought have roles to play in realignment.
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • Last Word
      Complex system can move with pressures in- and outside the academy.
      Make good arguments, treat problem as organizational, and don’t stop moving.
      Today: Have engineering graduates who can act and humanities graduates who can reflect.
      Tomorrow: Engineers who can reflect and act & humanities graduates …
      Controversial proposals here:
      To engineers who disagree: Make arguments, don’t merely invoke the cold war paradigm & the “basics.”
      To humanists saying hurrah: Engineering academy reflecting on its nature. Are you doing likewise?
      © David E. Goldberg 2009
    • More Information
      iFoundry: http://ifoundry.illinois.edu
      EotF2.0: http://engineerofthefuture.olin.edu
      iFoundryYouTube: http://www.youtube.com/illinoisfoundry
      iFoundrySlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/ifoundry
      TEE, the book. http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470007230.html
      TEE, the blog. www.entrepreneurialengineer.blogspot.com
      TEE, the course. http://online.engr.uiuc.edu/webcourses/ge498tee/index.html
      MTV, the course. http://online.engr.uiuc.edu/webcourses/ge498tv/index.html
      Engineering and Technology Studies at Illinois (ETSI) http://www-illigal.ge.uiuc.edu/ETSI
      Workshop on Philosophy & Engineering (WPE)http://www-illigal.ge.uiuc.edu/wpe
      © David E. Goldberg 2009