The missing basics: What engineers don't learn and why they need to learn it


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Lecture 1 from ENG100++ (ENG 198) for iFoundry freshmen at the UIUC. Considers what engineering is, what engineers don't know when they graduate and why they need to learn it.

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The missing basics: What engineers don't learn and why they need to learn it

  1. 1. The Missing Basics:What Engineers Don’t Learn & Why They Need to Learn It<br />David E. GoldbergIllinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering EducationUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbana, IL 61801<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  2. 2. Engineering Education Reform in the Air<br />Many calls for reform.<br />Many lists the same:<br />Need more “design.”<br />Need more people skills.<br />Need better “communications.”<br />Yet change comes slowly, if at all.<br />Can we be more systematic about understanding basis for reform?<br />What don’t engineers learn and why do they need to learn it.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  3. 3. Roadmap<br />Who am I?<br />Why is curriculum change hard? What is iFoundry?<br />What is engineering? Student reflections.<br />Begin with the end in mind: Seniors in design project course.<br />7 things engineers don’t learn: the missing basics.<br />3 reasons they need to learn them: historical, philosophical, and utilitarian.<br />How this connects to ENG100++.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  4. 4. Who Am I?<br />David E. Goldberg, Jerry S. Dobrovolny Distinguished Professor in Entrepreneurial Engineering, Industrial & Enterprise Systems Engineering.<br />Project engineering & marketing manager, Stoner Associates, Carlisle, PA, 1976-1980.<br />Asst/Assoc Prof Engineering Mechanics, University of Alabama, 1984-1990.<br />Came to UIUC in 1990 in General Engineering.<br />Research in genetic algorithms & philosophy of engineering.<br />Co-Founded ShareThis in 2004(Formerly Nextumi).<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  5. 5. Why is Curriculum Change Hard?<br /><ul><li>Academic NIMBY problem.
  6. 6. NIMBY = Not in my backyard.
  7. 7. “It is OK to change the curriculum…”
  8. 8. “….just don’t change MY course.”
  9. 9. Politics of logrolling: You support my not changing. I support your not changing.
  10. 10. Even though agreement for change is widespread, specific changes are resisted.</li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  11. 11. iFoundry: Org Innovation for Change<br />Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education:<br />Curriculum change incubator. Permit change.<br />Collaboration. Large, key ugrad programs work together. Easier approval if shared. <br />Connections. Hook to depts, NAE, ABET (?), industry. <br />Volunteers. Enthusiasm for change among participants. <br />Existing authority. Use signatory authority for modification of curricula for immediate pilot. <br />Respect faculty governance. Get pilot permission from the dept. and go back to faculty for vote after pilot change<br />Assessment. Built-in assessment to overcome objections back home. <br />Scalability. Past attempts at change like Olin fail to scale at UIUC and other big schools. <br /><br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  12. 12. What is Engineering?<br />You’re sitting in class at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign<br />You signed up for engin school.<br />Came to one of the best on the planet.<br />First day of your freshmen year.<br />What is engineering?<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />Mechanical Building & Drill Hall 1871<br />
  13. 13. Begin with the End in Mind<br />Senior design as way to see the end.<br />General Engineering at UIUC established in 1921 following curriculum study.<br />Grinter report of 1955 led to more math and engineering science at expense of design.<br />UCLA conference 1962.<br />Ford Foundation grant 1966.<br />Money ran out 1971.<br />Industrial funding supports thereafter.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />Stephen R. Covey (b. 1932 )<br />
  14. 14. Ready, Set, Go<br />These are seniors.<br />Should be engineers on the threshold.<br />Express preferences for projects.<br />Get assigned to a project: 3-member teams & faculty advisor.<br />Go on the plant trip.<br />Query: What don’t they know how to do?<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  15. 15. Failure 1: Inability to Ask<br /><ul><li>Don’t know how to frame or ask good questions.
  16. 16. Difficulty probing the problem.
  17. 17. Trouble querying what has been tried.
  18. 18. Problem learning about vendors and sources of information.
  19. 19. Historical terms: Socrates 101.</li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />Socrates (470-399 BCE)<br />
  20. 20. Failure 2: Inability to Label<br /><ul><li>Don’t know names of common systems, assemblies, and components of technology.
  21. 21. Difficulty labeling new artifact concepts or models.
  22. 22. Linguistically naïve.
  23. 23. Mainly comfortable with familiar categories and objects.
  24. 24. Historical terms: Aristotle 101. </li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />Aristotle (384-322 BCE)<br />
  25. 25. Failure 3: Inability to Model<br /><ul><li>Don’t know how to model conceptually:
  26. 26. As causal chain.
  27. 27. As categorical list of types or kinds.
  28. 28. Pavlovian dogs when it comes to equations.
  29. 29. Need to understand problem qualitatively in words and diagrams prior to quantitative modeling undertaking.
  30. 30. Historical terms: Hume 101 or Aristotle 102.</li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />David Hume (1711-1776)<br />
  31. 31. Failure 4: Inability to Decompose<br /><ul><li>Don’t know how to decompose big problem into little problems.
  32. 32. Look for magic bullets in equations of motion.
  33. 33. Most projects too hard: Companies don’t pay $9500 for plugging into Newton’s laws.
  34. 34. Historical terms: Descartes 101?</li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />René Descartes (1596-1650)<br />
  35. 35. Failure 5: Inability to Measure<br />Don’t know how to measure stuff or collect data.<br />Engineering taught as abstract math/science exercise.<br />Ignore benefit of direct measurement.<br />Historical terms: Locke 101 or Bacon 101?<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />John Locke (1632-1704)<br />
  36. 36. Failure 6: Inability to Visualize/Ideate<br />Don’t know how to draw sketches or diagrams when helpful.<br />Have trouble envisioning solutions.<br />Graphics education greatly diminished.<br />Historical terms: da Vinci or Monge 101.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  37. 37. Failure 7: Inability to Communicate<br /><ul><li>Finally finish the project.
  38. 38. Don’t know how to present or write for business.
  39. 39. “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
  40. 40. Historical terms: Newman 101.</li></ul>© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />Paul Newman (1925-2008)<br />
  41. 41. The Missing Basics vs. the Basics<br />Call these lacnuae the missing basics (MBs) vs. “the basics” = math, sci, & eng sci.<br />After 4 years they don’t know how to<br />Question: Socrates 101.<br />Label: Aristotle 101.<br />Model conceptually: Hume 101 & Aristotle 102.<br />Decompose: Descartes 101.<br />Measure: Bacon-Locke 101.<br />Visualize/ideate: da Vinci-Monge 101.<br />Communicate: Newman 101<br />MBs as quality failure.<br />5th century BC as pivotal moment in human thinking.<br />MBs as keys to <br />lifelong learning,<br />interdisciplinarity.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  42. 42. Do Engineers Need the Missing Basics?<br />Yes!!<br />Three reasons:<br />World has changed: Cold war curriculum in internet world. <br />Engineering is more than math & science.<br />Great engineers have balance of people and technical skills.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  43. 43. Cold War Curriculum in Creative Era<br />Why does this matter?<br />World has changed.<br />End of WW2: Engineers accepted notion (myth?) that “science won the war.”<br />1955 Grinter report spurred injection of math & science, reduction in design & practice.<br />Engineers as narrow, specialized, & individuals.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  44. 44. Creative Era & Missed Revolutions<br />The paradigm was OK for WW2 & Cold War.<br />Now a creative era, a flat world. <br />Missed revolutions since WW2:<br />Quality revolution.<br />Entrepreneurial revolution.<br />IT revolution.<br />Teach the “revolutions,” but do not integrate lessons into academy or curriculum.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  45. 45. Engineering is More than Math & Science<br />Return to our discussion:<br />Common view: Engineering is applied science.<br />Von Karman: “A scientist discovers that which exists. An engineer creates that which never was.”<br />Koen: Engineering is heuristics.<br />Pitt: Technology is “humanity at work.”<br />Mesthene: Technology is “the organization of knowledge for achievement of practical purpose.”<br />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.”<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  46. 46. A Definition? <br />Here: Engineering is the social practice of conceiving, designing, implementing, producing, & sustaining complex artifacts, processes, or systems appropriate to some recognized need.<br />Artifacts primary object.<br />Science & math are among tools used for artifact conception & support.<br />Social practice Engineered by and for people.<br />Social side as important as the physics.<br />Some engineered objects are physical, but all engineered objects are social.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  47. 47. Great Engineers Have Balance of Skills<br />Tech visionary research great tech skills, modeling skills, and political skills.<br />Technological products important.<br />Engineering is by and for people.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  48. 48. ThingSpace as Example<br />Moving away from an analysis-centered curriculum.<br />Taking technological products seriously.<br />Consider their essence, history, workings, & effect on users and society.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  49. 49. Bottom Line<br />Summing up:<br />Senior design as wayto list missing basics.<br />7 things engineers don’t learn.<br />The world has changed.<br />Engineering as more than math and science.<br />Engineering as balanced skill set.<br />This course emphasizes the missing things.<br />Will still take classes with plenty of math & science.<br />This class will help you in thinking more deeply about your math & science.<br />Will also help you in engineering effectiveness with customers and co-workers.<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />
  50. 50. More Information<br />iFoundry:<br />EotF2.0:<br />iFoundryYouTube:<br />iFoundrySlideShare:<br />TEE, the book.<br />TEE, the blog.<br />TEE, the course.<br />MTV, the course.<br />Engineering and Technology Studies at Illinois (ETSI)<br />Workshop on Philosophy & Engineering (WPE)<br />Twitter:,<br />© David E. Goldberg 2009<br />