What Engineers Don't Learn and Why They Don't Learn It
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What Engineers Don't Learn and Why They Don't Learn It

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What happens when a cold war engineering curriculum collides with a real-world, industrial-based senior design project? You find that engineering education is flawed along seven key dimensions.

What happens when a cold war engineering curriculum collides with a real-world, industrial-based senior design project? You find that engineering education is flawed along seven key dimensions.

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  • Possible reasons for, culprits of, and solutions to these failures:

    -Excessive time devoted to learning formulaic methods, rote memorization, or other efforts to make a grade rather than to truly comprehend material. Perhaps a fault of both the system and the individual student.

    -Failure of students to adapt to an educational environment where information is not pre-filtered and neatly prepared and packaged for them. Guidance during the first year of undergrad may unfortunately be necessary to prevent this from damaging the ability to learn throughout all 4 years.

    -Lack of hands-on, real-world, physical interpretation and application of concepts presented in technical prerequisite courses. Mostly a fault of the system, and perhaps of some instructors. Cooperation between math, physics, and engineering departments is necessary to provide timely, relevant, and beneficial instruction of foundational knowledge.

    -Lack of a balanced education. Another issue with accountability shared by the system and the individual student. Pursuit of non-technical coursework and studies is under emphasized in many engineering programs, leading to engineers with narrow skill sets that struggle with communication and interaction outside of the engineering community.
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    What Engineers Don't Learn and Why They Don't Learn It What Engineers Don't Learn and Why They Don't Learn It Presentation Transcript

    • What Engineers Don’t Learn & Why They Don’t Learn It David E. Goldberg Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL 61801 USA [email_address]
    • What Engineers Don’t Learn and Why They Don’t Learn It
      • General Engineering at UIUC established in 1921 following curriculum study.
      • Required industrial-sponsored projects since early 1970s.
      • Teams of 3, faculty advisor, and company sponsor.
      • $8,500 from the company to cover expenses.
      • Go on the plant trip.
      © David E. Goldberg 2008
    • Failure 1: Inability to Ask
      • Don’t learn how to frame or ask good questions.
      • Difficulty probing the problem.
      • Trouble following what has been tried.
      • Problems finding out vendors and sources of information.
      • Historical terms: Socrates 101.
      © David E. Goldberg 2008 Socrates (470-399 BCE)
    • Failure 2: Inability to Label
      • Don’t learn 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.
      • Hist terms: Aristotle 101.
      © David E. Goldberg 2008 Aristotle (384-322 BCE)
    • Failure 3: Inability to Model
      • Don’t learn to model conceptually:
        • Causal chain.
        • Categorize according to list of attributes.
      • Pavlovian dogs when it comes to equations.
      • Need to understand problem qualitatively in words and diagrams prior to quantitative modeling undertaken.
      • Hist terms: Hume 101 or Aristotle 102.
      © David E. Goldberg 2008 David Hume (1711-1776)
    • Failure 4: Inability to Decompose
      • Don’t learn 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.
      • Hist terms: Descartes 101?
      © David E. Goldberg 2008 René Descartes (1596-1650)
    • Failure 5: Inability to Measure
      • Don’t learn to measure stuff.
      • Engineering taught as abstract exercise.
      • So used to thinking in terms of physics and math, ignore direct measurement.
      • Hist terms: Locke 101 or Bacon 101?
      © David E. Goldberg 2008 John Locke (1632-1704)
    • Failure 6: Inability to Draw/Visualize
      • Graphics education greatly diminished.
      • Do not learn to draw sketches or diagrams when helpful.
      • Have difficulty with detailed drawings.
      • Hist terms: da Vinci or Monge 101.
      © David E. Goldberg 2008
    • Failure 7: Inability to Communicate
      • Finally finish the project.
      • Do’t learn to present or write.
      • Coach to successful conclusion.
      • “ What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
      • Hist terms: Newman 101.
      © David E. Goldberg 2008 Paul Newman (b. 1925)
    • Summary of Quality Failure
      • After 4 years they don’t learn how to
        • Question: Socrates 101.
        • Label: Aristotle 101.
        • Model conceptually: Hume 101 & Aristotle 102.
        • Decompose: Descartes 101.
        • Measure: Locke 101 or Bacon 101.
        • Visualize/draw: Monge 101 or da Vinci 101.
        • Communicate: Newman 101
      • Industry this would be huge quality failure: “product” inadequate to intended function.
      • 7 failures as decomposition for repair.
      © David E. Goldberg 2008 http://www.illigal.uiuc.edu/web/ifoundry
    • What Engineers Don’t Learn & Why They Don’t Learn It David E. Goldberg Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL 61801 USA [email_address]