What Engineers Don't Learn & Why They Don't Learn It & What Philosophy MIght Do to Help


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WPE-2008 presentation by David E. Goldberg, University of Illinois, 12 November 2008.

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  • What Engineers Don't Learn & Why They Don't Learn It & What Philosophy MIght Do to Help

    1. 1. What Engineers Don’t Learn & Why They Don’t Learn It: and What Philosophy Might Do to Help David E. Goldberg Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL 61801 USA [email_address]
    2. 2. Reform is in the Air <ul><li>Many calls for reform. </li></ul><ul><li>Many lists the same: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Need more “design.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need more people skill (soft). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need better communications. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Change has come slowly, if at all. </li></ul><ul><li>Steadfast defense of “the basics” against foreign invaders. </li></ul><ul><li>Reflect on missing elements of engineering education using philosophical modes of inquiry. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    3. 3. Roadmap <ul><li>Industry-based senior design course as opportunity for diagnosis. </li></ul><ul><li>What engineers don’t learn. </li></ul><ul><li>7 failures of 21 st century engineering education. </li></ul><ul><li>Why they don’t learn needed skills & why reform efforts have failed. </li></ul><ul><li>How philosophy might help. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    4. 4. General Engineering & Sr Design <ul><li>General Engineering at UIUC established in 1921 following curriculum study. </li></ul><ul><li>Grinter report of 1954 led to more math and engineering science at expense of design. </li></ul><ul><li>UCLA conference 1962. </li></ul><ul><li>Ford Foundation grant 1966. </li></ul><ul><li>Money ran out 1971. </li></ul><ul><li>Industrial funds sought thereafter. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008 Jerry S. Dobrovolny
    5. 5. A Tale of Two Projects © David E. Goldberg 2008 Our Project: Force-Feedback from user arms Commercial Cross-trainer 95Xi
    6. 6. Ready, Set, Go <ul><li>These are seniors. </li></ul><ul><li>Should be engineers on the threshold. </li></ul><ul><li>Especially interesting to note what their educations didn’t prepare them for. </li></ul><ul><li>Express preferences for projects. </li></ul><ul><li>Get assigned to a project: 3-member teams & faculty advisor. </li></ul><ul><li>Go on the plant trip. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    7. 7. Failure 1: Inability to Ask <ul><li>Don’t learn how to frame or ask good questions. </li></ul><ul><li>Difficulty probing the problem. </li></ul><ul><li>Trouble following what has been tried. </li></ul><ul><li>Problems finding out vendors and sources of information. </li></ul><ul><li>Historical terms: Socrates 101. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008 Socrates (470-399 BCE)
    8. 8. Failure 2: Inability to Label <ul><li>Don’t learn names of common systems, assemblies, and components of technology. </li></ul><ul><li>Difficulty labeling new artifact concepts or models. </li></ul><ul><li>Linguistically naïve. </li></ul><ul><li>Mainly comfortable with familiar categories and objects. </li></ul><ul><li>Historical terms: Aristotle 101. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008 Aristotle (384-322 BCE)
    9. 9. Failure 3: Inability to Model <ul><li>Don’t learn to model conceptually: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Causal chain. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Categorize according to list of types or kinds. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pavlovian dogs when it comes to equations. </li></ul><ul><li>Need to understand problem qualitatively in words and diagrams prior to quantitative modeling undertaken. </li></ul><ul><li>Historical terms: Hume 101 or Aristotle 102. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008 David Hume (1711-1776)
    10. 10. Failure 4: Inability to Decompose <ul><li>Don’t learn to decompose big problem into little problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Look for magic bullets in equations of motion. </li></ul><ul><li>Most projects too hard: Companies don’t pay $8500 for plugging into Newton’s laws. </li></ul><ul><li>Historical terms: Descartes 101? </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008 René Descartes (1596-1650)
    11. 11. Failure 5: Inability to Measure <ul><li>Don’t learn to measure stuff. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering taught as abstract exercise. </li></ul><ul><li>So used to thinking in terms of physics and math, ignore direct measurement. </li></ul><ul><li>Historical terms: Locke 101 or Bacon 101? </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008 John Locke (1632-1704)
    12. 12. Failure 6: Inability to Draw/Visualize <ul><li>Graphics education greatly diminished. </li></ul><ul><li>Do not learn to draw sketches or diagrams when helpful. </li></ul><ul><li>Have difficulty with detailed drawings. </li></ul><ul><li>Hist terms: da Vinci or Monge 101. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    13. 13. Failure 7: Inability to Communicate <ul><li>Finally finish the project. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t learn to present or write. </li></ul><ul><li>Coach to successful conclusion. </li></ul><ul><li>“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” </li></ul><ul><li>Historical terms: Newman 101. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008 Paul Newman (1925-2008)
    14. 14. Summary of Quality Failure <ul><li>After 4 years they don’t learn how to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Question: Socrates 101. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Label: Aristotle 101. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Model conceptually: Hume 101 & Aristotle 102. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decompose: Descartes 101. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Measure: Locke 101 or Bacon 101. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visualize/draw: Monge 101 or da Vinci 101. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Communicate: Newman 101 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Industry this would be huge quality failure: “product” inadequate to intended function. </li></ul><ul><li>7 failures as decomposition for repair. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    15. 15. What Can They Do? <ul><li>Can solve equations. </li></ul><ul><li>Can talk about limited categories of tech discussed in class. </li></ul><ul><li>Can’t think qualitatively or reflectively. </li></ul><ul><li>Heidegger’s beef: Science/tech as merely calculative. </li></ul><ul><li>Not asking for contemplation outside of discipline. </li></ul><ul><li>Let’s walk before running. </li></ul><ul><li>Want qualitative thinking skill to permit problem solving & creativity within discipline. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008 Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)
    16. 16. Why Don’t They Learn the 7? <ul><li>Stuck in cold war paradigm where engineering = applied science/math. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t articulate engineering ontology, technology, epistemology & reasoning. </li></ul><ul><li>Offer pedagogical solutions to philosophical problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Pay no attention to organizational change. </li></ul><ul><li>Ignore costs of reform proposals. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    17. 17. Cold War Curriculum in Creative Era <ul><li>In final days of Vannevar Bush era. </li></ul><ul><li>Science: The Endless Frontier, set stage for NSF & research. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers accepted notion that “science won the war.” </li></ul><ul><li>1954 Grinter report spurred injection of math & science, reduction in design & practice. </li></ul><ul><li>Defense of “the basics” is defense of that paradigm. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    18. 18. Foundations Not Articulated <ul><li>Ontology, epistemology, and reasoning not discussed. </li></ul><ul><li>Assumed to come from “the basics.” </li></ul><ul><li>Design as abused term & mysterious process. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    19. 19. Pedagogical Solutions to Philosophical Problems <ul><li>Pedagogical improvement is fundamental response of reform movement. </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching wrong stuff well a poor solution. </li></ul><ul><li>Experiential & project-based learning is cure in many reform efforts. </li></ul><ul><li>These effective because instructors coach really engineering knowledge & skill. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem: lack of conceptual clarity </li></ul><ul><li>Calls for philosophical solutions. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    20. 20. Organizational Change Ignored <ul><li>Academic NIMBY problem. </li></ul><ul><li>NIMBY = Not in my backyard. </li></ul><ul><li>“ It is OK to change the curriculum…” </li></ul><ul><li>“… .as long as you leave my course alone.” </li></ul><ul><li>Politics of logrolling: You support my not changing. I support your not changing. </li></ul><ul><li>Even though agreement for change is widespread, specific changes are resisted. </li></ul>
    21. 21. : Org Innovation for Change <ul><li>Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Separate pilot unit/incubator. Permit change. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collaboration. Large, key ugrad programs work together. Easier approval if shared. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Connections. Hook to depts, NAE, ABET (?), industry. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Volunteers. Enthusiasm for change among participants. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Existing authority. Use signatory authority for modification of curricula for immediate pilot. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assessment. Built-in assessment to overcome objections back home. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scalability. Past attempts at change like Olin fail to scale at UIUC and other big schools. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>www.ifoundry.illinois.edu </li></ul>
    22. 22. Economics of Reform Ignored <ul><li>Reform efforts ignore continuing costs of pilot efforts. </li></ul><ul><li>Lecture is much maligned. </li></ul><ul><li>Lectures are cheap. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Low preparation costs. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lost coordination costs. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Not arguing for lectures alone. </li></ul><ul><li>Am recommending hard look at costs & scalability: 300 versus 5600. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    23. 23. How Can Philosophy Help? <ul><li>Have been using philosophical modes of thought & have suggested missing philosophical links in engineering canon. </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophy as </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tool for category error diagnosis & conceptual clarity. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Qualitative reasoning skill for educating engineers. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Alternative form of rigor to science & math. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Status enhancement device. </li></ul></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    24. 24. Larger Failure of the Academy? <ul><li>Gripe: engineers can’t apply basic qualitative thinking skills to novel problems in real world. </li></ul><ul><li>Can average BA/BS do so in any subject? </li></ul><ul><li>Average BA as tech/math/science illiterate. </li></ul><ul><li>Thinking, whether qual or quant, is taught with respect to existing categories of knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>All students have little practice in solving novel problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Isn’t this a massive failure of general education, too? </li></ul><ul><li>Does philosophy have a role to play here, too? </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    25. 25. Bottom Line <ul><li>Summing up: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Senior design as way in. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>7 things engineers don’t learn. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Connections to intellectual history. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>5 reasons why engineers don’t learn these things now or why they are hard to reform. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Philosophy has a role to play to repair. </li></ul><ul><li>Engineers need to reflect more deeply and achieve greater conceptual coherence. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2008
    26. 26. More Information <ul><li>iFoundry: http://ifoundry.illinois.edu </li></ul><ul><li>iFoundry YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/illinoisfoundry </li></ul><ul><li>iFoundry SlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/ifoundry </li></ul><ul><li>TEE, the book. http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470007230.html </li></ul><ul><li>TEE, the blog. www.entrepreneurialengineer.blogspot.com </li></ul><ul><li>TEE, the course. http://online.engr.uiuc.edu/webcourses/ge498tee/index.html </li></ul><ul><li>MTV, the course. http://online.engr.uiuc.edu/webcourses/ge498tv/index.html </li></ul><ul><li>Engineering and Technology Studies at Illinois (ETSI) http://www-illigal.ge.uiuc.edu/ETSI </li></ul><ul><li>2008 Workshop on Philosophy & Engineering (WPE) http://www-illigal.ge.uiuc.edu/wpe </li></ul><ul><li>Illinois Genetic Algorithms Lab: http://www-illigal.ge.uiuc.edu/ </li></ul>