ABET Civil Engineering Program Criteria Draft

Expand all | Collapse all

10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

  • 1.  10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 04-28-2021 04:40 PM

    CURRENT CRITERIA

    PROPOSED CRITERIA

    RATIONALE FOR CHANGE

    analyze and solve problems in at least four technical areas appropriate to civil engineering;

    solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas appropriate to civil engineering;

    • The requirement to "analyze" has been dropped because the CEBOK3 specifies this outcome at Bloom's Level 3 (Apply).
    • The term "complex" has been added for consistency with both the EAC General Criteria (where the term is formally defined) and the CEBOK3.
    • The ability to solve complex problems is also integral to the international standards that form the basis for ABET's membership in (and obligations under) the Washington Accord.
    • The term "technical areas" has been replaced by "specialty areas" for consistency with the CEBOK3 and with ASCE's ongoing specialty certification initiative.


  • 2.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-06-2021 09:46 PM
    Personally I have never liked the ABET definition of "complex" problems. Based on the underlined terms below one can identify almost any problem as "complex". Solving problems that are cross-disciplinary would likely be preferable as they would be "complex" by their nature.

    Complex Engineering Problems
    Complex engineering problems include one or more of the following characteristics: involving wide-ranging or conflicting technical issues, having no obvious solution, addressing problems not encompassed by current standards and codes, involving diverse groups of stakeholders, including many component parts or sub-problems, involving multiple disciplines, or having significant consequences in a range of contexts.

    ------------------------------
    Daniel Pradel Ph.D., C.Eng, P.E., G.E., D.GE, F.ASCE
    Chief Engineer
    The Ohio State University
    Columbus OH
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-07-2021 11:44 AM

    Great point, Daniel.  Thanks for your comment.  It's worth noting that ASCE expressed this same concern when the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) adopted and defined the term "Complex Engineering Problems" in the EAC Criteria. 

    The EAC was obliged to address Complex Engineering Problems because of its obligations under the Washington Accord, which specifies that accreditation criteria must be consistent with the International Engineering Alliance (IEA) Graduate Attributes.  See https://www.ieagreements.org/assets/Uploads/Documents/Policy/Graduate-Attributes-and-Professional-Competencies.pdf

    As you can see in this document, solving Complex Engineering Problems is a major aspect of the IEA Graduate Attributes; however, the IEA's definition of the term (on page 7 of the document referenced above) is much more rigorous than the ABET EAC definition. 

    For now, we are obliged to use the EAC's definition. We can't re-define a term that's already defined in the General Criteria.  But we can continue to advocate for change. 



    ------------------------------
    Stephen Ressler Ph.D., P.E., Dist.M.ASCE
    Education Consultant
    Bethlehem PA
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-07-2021 03:46 PM
    Thank you Steve for the explanation. Accordingly, I suggest we remove "complex" and use some other wording, e.g., "solve problems realistic to the practice of Civil Engineering..."

    ------------------------------
    Daniel Pradel Ph.D., C.Eng, P.E., G.E., D.GE, F.ASCE
    The Ohio State University
    Columbus OH
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-08-2021 08:27 AM
    Not sure about this if realistic means an actual extant problem.  One of the most interesting senior design projects I advised (we do a full year senior design) was developing a "packing list for Mars" which got into life support issues, design of habitation, use of Martian soil for construction, etc.  I actually sort of like the ABET definition, although nearly all CIVE capstone sequences fulfill this --- is is more difficult in other programs.

    ------------------------------
    Charles Haas F.ASCE
    LD Betz Professor of Environ. Eng. & Department Head - Civil, Architectural and Environmental Eng.
    Philadelphia PA
    [Phone]
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-08-2021 09:12 AM
    Daniel, we'll certainly carry this issue back to the Task Committee.  Personally, I would be reluctant to change "complex" to something else--primarily because "complex engineering problems" is now an internationally recognized term with an internationally recognized definition.  The fact that ABET's definition is a weak subset of the IEA's is not great--but it's still a step in the right direction.  I don't think we should thwart it by going in a different direction. As a general principle, I think that using standard, widely recognized terminology is much better than just making up our own.  The long struggles (back in the 1990s and early 2000s) over ASCE's use of the term "proficiency" in Program Criteria is a case in point.  Making up our own terminology just leads to confusion and misinterpretation.  It's this same issue that led ASCE to use Bloom's Taxonomy--which, I think, has worked very well.  Our constituents are always better served by the use of broadly recognized terminology.

    ------------------------------
    Stephen Ressler Ph.D., P.E., Dist.M.ASCE
    Professor Emeritus
    Bethlehem PA
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-27-2021 04:24 PM
    1. ...SOLVE COMPLEX PROBLEMS IN AT LEAST FOUR SPECIALTY AREAS

    Perhaps one of the most common examples of complex problems in at least four (4) specialty areas is when an interdisciplinary project is part of a federal or state agency program.

    It is not unusual for such programs/projects to include, but not be limited to the effective and efficient collaboration, communication, and cooperation between the federal and state regulators along with the public as well as various consultants and contractors contracted for this work.

    For such work, it is not unusual to require:

    1. Engagement and timely integration with NGOs.
    2. Program/Project task planning & scheduling with the program/project's responsible staff.
    3. Planning & Design Risk Management Planning and monitoring.
    4. Routine Earned Value Analysis Report preparation, analysis, and review by management.
    5. Management of the Program/projects system for the management of quality.
    6. Routine facilitated coordination sessions between all contract executives.
    7. On-Site management of safety compliance.

    And for those currently engaged in this work, please add to my "Short-List."

    Stay Healthy!

    Cheers,

    Bill

     



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-27-2021 06:00 PM
    These type of projects are indeed a very good example of a "complex engineering problem" (CEP).

    The problem is that when the "complexity" part of the CEP is driven by any of the listed 7 elements, then the only course in which this outcome can be realistically assessed is senior design.

    I have wondered for a long time what type of CEPs can correspond better to what one expects for the final course in each specialty area (typically: some structural design class, hydrology, etc.), so that the assessment can be more spread out, and not fall only (and always) on the senior design class.

    Thanks

    ------------------------------
    Claudio Meier Ph.D., Ing., M.ASCE
    Associate Professor of Civil Engineering
    University of Memphis
    Memphis TN
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-27-2021 06:29 PM
    Keep in mind that the assessment, Criteria 4, is required for the general criteria.  So correctly noted, assessment is necessary.
    The difficulty in splitting this out too widely for assessment is that all subdisciplines must be assessed, etc. within the context of Criteria IV.

    Certainly doable, I believe possibly preferred; however, documentation requirements become spread  among more faculty/instructors.

    With respect to the criteria, a program certainly might approach this either way, or both.



    ------------------------------
    Jay Puckett P.E., F.ASCE
    Director, Durham School, UNL
    CE criteria task force member

    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-27-2021 11:26 PM

     

    Hi Claudio, thanks for your review and observations of my suggestions.

     

    I agree with your assessment of the notes if, and only if one interpreted my 7 issues as part of the same project, i.e., the classical "Senior Project."

     

    To clarify, or as we say "What I meant by that" was that each of the 7 issues is evaluated as satisfying the ABET criteria for complexity during parts of each of our CE student's four years.

    I estimated 8 semesters offering at least one to two courses each semester including adaptations of the criteria suggested.

     The subject matter for such complex course applications would include, but not be limited to standard technical course material. The non-engineering material for each such course would involve subjects such as:

    1. Kurt Lewin's Force-Field Analysis.
    2. Deming's assertion that no less than 96% of the reasons why project outcomes fail is not due to the people, but the system within which it originated.
    3. Conflict within project work is the anticipated result of the lack of candor early on in the project's development.
    4. Dependable application of EVA with clear, unacceptable outcomes anticipated if corrections to the plan are not made within the "Next two weeks."
    5. Given quality is conformance to requirements, and many clients are focused more on their "Expectations," pushing the project task work to "Stay on schedule" prior to the client agreeing to the engineer's translation of their expectations into requirements, is an anticipatable trap.
    6. When top-level managers "Skip" coordination sessions and instead send their "Representative," anticipated slippage in time, money and scope are soon to follow.
    7. While risk management is a great tool to anticipate potential "Hits or misses," not having each risk tracked and verified on a routine basis makes the tool worthless.
    8. Project Startup Sessions that end with both unanswered questions and orders to "Just get it going" will move the quality system off-track resulting in errors and omissions that managers will say "Well, why didn't you tell me?"
    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill

    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-28-2021 08:12 AM
    I think this discussion is getting hung up on making "complex problems" too complex!

    The following is the ABET definition:
    "Complex Engineering Problems
    Complex engineering problems include one or more of the following characteristics: involving wide-ranging or conflicting technical issues, having no obvious solution, addressing problems not encompassed by current standards and codes, involving diverse groups of stakeholders, including many component parts or sub-problems, involving multiple disciplines, or having significant consequences in a range of contexts."

    I've added emphasis to what I view as a key phrase --- to be complex, all of the subsequent attributes are not necessary, but only one or more.  So (as a PEV), I think many lower level courses can include complex problems.

    For example, in my area of environmental engineering, I often given an introductory problem giving chemical composition of two available water supplies, and differential unit costs for each, and then have students calculate the "best" mix, considering both cost and chemical characteristics (one of my chemical parameters is often hardness or salinity, in which case students will need to look up water quality guidelines).

    In hydrology, I could see incorporating problems for design of a reservoir or a detention basin considering climate change over the design life.

    ------------------------------
    Charles Haas NAE, F.ASCE
    LD Betz Professor of Environ. Eng. & Department Head - Civil, Architectural and Environmental Eng.
    Philadelphia PA
    [Phone]
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-28-2021 09:25 AM
    To continue the discussion, perhaps for commentary material, I agree.  From the definition,

    ...   including many component parts or sub-problems, involving multiple disciplines, or having significant consequences in a range of contexts."


    I would hope that we do this in several context throughout the curriculum, especially component part or sub-problems.

    I know of one school that uses the same project for a series of courses in each of the four levels thereby inverting what we might assume.  First year starts with broad-based conceptual planning with then it "narrows" as technical skills increase.  Keep in mind that as freshman, our students have much of the same technical background as our clients/stakeholders.

    Anyway, fodder for the commentary.

    ------------------------------
    Jay Puckett P.E., F.ASCE
    Director
    University of Nebraska
    Omaha NE
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-28-2021 11:00 AM
    You are absolutely right, from the perspective of ABET's definition. But here's the issue: ABET is a very "watered-down" version of the original agreement in the Washington Accord! I also agree with you that adding all of the management dimensions might make things way too complicated for BSCE students; in my mind (but I may be wrong!), most of the list of issues mentioned by William (Hayden) are very real, but they seem to belong to the discipline of industrial engineering (a field that seems to be more common in Europe and South America than in the US, but I may be wrong about this perception - actually, my whole idea here may be wrong.. having had four 85-hr courses with Industrial Engineering during my CE UG program does not qualify me at all).

    If one operates within the framework of passing the accreditation, then sure, it becomes relatively easy to find questions/projects satisfying ABET's definition of a CEP (actually, in a recent faculty meeting, I recall a colleague making your exact same comment, with the same emphasis "only another stakeholer or issue is needed").

    But IMO this is a much deeper issue, related to a longer discussion (that I started in Discussion #17) about how we define what a Civil Engineer is, in a spectrum from a technician to a "higher" professional.

    The internationally-accepted definition of a CEP (the one in the Washington Accord) is definitely not "take your typical textbook and add a single stakeholder." It focusses much more on the notion that CEPs are ill-defined from the very beginning (do we have a problem? can we come to an agreement that we have a problem, and what is the problem in the first place?). Not only are they ill-defined, they are also ill-structured. By definition, recognizing, defining, and approaching such problems requires real understanding (a clear conceptual framework), across a range of CE disciplines. The definition also implies that approaching such problems requires an interaction between theory (real sense of the word - not something that looks like you need 3 PhDs in math to understand but you still can't visualize it) and application to the real word.

    It is clear that if students are taught Hydraulics or Hydrology (my field) focussing on methods instead of concepts, with the typical run-of-the-mill repetitive examples (in the textbook, in class, in the hmwk, and in the test), they will not be learning at the level required to approach CEPs (as defined in the previous paragraph; not ABET's definition); they will mostly learn methods and procedures, with little or no conceptual grounding (again: with "conceptual grounding" I mean "truly understanding things," not just regurgitating equations and set procedures as engineers are quite commonly taught, sadly).

    Finally, it is interesting that there is literature that shows that the vast majority of CE faculty (or maybe it is broader, engineering faculty, can't remember on the top of my head), and I include myself among this majority, have really no idea on how to pose real CEPs to their students.

    My own feeling is that if ABET and ASCE are including this language (well, ABET already did), there needs to be a much broader discussion, and some type of agreement, as to what we mean by a "CEP," and how we can go about having typical CE faculty pose them, and typical CE students solve them. If you ask me, it would take a lot of real change towards real learning, as it should be obvious that people formed to repeat actions without questioning what they are doing will not be able to do so (unless they are incredibly smart from the beginning, so they can "see" beyond the simple definition, equation, and repetition of the procedure - but that is not the goal of education!)

    Cheers


    ------------------------------
    Claudio Meier Ph.D., Ing., M.ASCE
    Associate Professor of Civil Engineering
    University of Memphis
    Memphis TN
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-28-2021 06:23 PM
    Dr. Meier, thank you for your thoughts.  They will be shared with the Task Committee.  While our focus is on reviewing the CEPC in light of the ABET criteria, ABET definitions, and CEBOK3 we did have discussions about the topics you have raised.  It will be worthwhile to revisit them, thank you.

    ------------------------------
    Herbert Raybourn P.E., M.ASCE
    Manager, Environmental Permitting Department
    Walt Disney World Resort
    Lake Buena Vista FL
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 05-28-2021 07:50 PM
    Specialty areas to me means disciplines of civil engineering. Using the NCEES PE civil exam to frame for my comment, disciplines are construction, geotechnical, structural, transportation, and water resources, although in reality there will be others that could be used and will depend on the purpose and content of each specific curriculum.

    "Problems is plural" and "at least" is connected to it in the statement.

    Is this meant to mean:

    1) More than one problem, and for each of these individual problems at least four specialty areas are involved. For instance, a capstone project that involves designing a project using geotechnical, structural, transportation, and water resources knowledge seems like it satisfies only one of these problems under this interpretation.

    or

    2) More than one problem, and each problem could involve one specialty area but all the problems of this kind collectively address four specialties. For instance, a project in a geotechnical course, a project in a structural course, a project in a transportation course, and a project in a water resources course seems like it satisfies the criteria this interpretation.

    My thoughts on interpretation 1)

    It would seem like the only logical place to use these problems would be found is in capstone courses. I don't think it is wise to combine 4 specialty areas as a complex problem in courses below the 400 level in an undergraduate program where students are still learning the fundamentals. If it was not a complex problem, perhaps it is possible, but that assume the student follow the curriculum rigidly and has all the prior knowledge to solve the problem.

    My thoughts on interpretation 2)

    I would seem easier to satisfy this interpretation but it doesn't seem like this is the intent of the proposed criteria. It seems like the intent of the proposed criteria as written is to have complex problems (plural means more than one) that are inter-disciplinary.

    In my program's 2 course capstone sequence we do interpretation 1 and it fully meets the definition of complex engineering problems that Dr. Pradel shared. We are ABET ETAC. Our capstone requires 150 hours of work on the project per student.

    What was the intent of the current criteria? Was it meant to be interdisciplinary problems to give students the experience of simulating how real civil engineering work is done or was it meant to be problems that cover enough disciplines to give students a broad civil engineering education.

    ------------------------------
    David Fedor P.E., M.S.
    Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Technology
    Pennsylvania College of Technology
    Williamsport, PA
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 06-01-2021 12:46 PM
    Mr. Fedor, both the ABET general criteria and the program criteria are intended to provide programs with flexibility in how the criteria are met.  As such, the curriculum must include experiences for students to solve complex problems in four or more specialty areas appropriate to civil engineering.  How this is implemented is up to each individual program as is the requirement that they demonstrate that the criterion is met.  Using different required courses (e.g. geotechnical, structures, transportation, water resources, etc.) in which students are required to solve problems is commonly used by programs to show compliance with the criterion.

    Thank you for your comments and commitment to engineering education and accreditation.  Your comments will be shared with the Task Committee.


    ------------------------------
    Herbert Raybourn P.E., M.ASCE
    Manager, Environmental Permitting Department
    Walt Disney World Resort
    Lake Buena Vista FL
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 11 days ago
    I would like to ask whether the Task Force has considered dropping the requirement from four specialty areas to three specialty areas.  I agree that we need breadth in the curriculum, but three areas can provide that, while simultaneously providing a little more freedom for programs to address the other topics (which also add breadth) that are increasingly deemed to be important in our field.  Is the reasoning for four over three as valid today in our field as it was when it was first introduced? It may not be. I wanted to ensure that this was considered and discussed by the Task Force.

    ------------------------------
    Jerome Hajjar Ph.D., P.E., F.SEI, F.ASCE
    CDM Smith Professor and Department Chair
    Northeastern University
    Boston MA
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: 10. ...solve complex problems in at least four specialty areas ...

    Posted 4 days ago
    Thank you, Dr. Hajjar, for your comments regarding the curriculum breadth requirement in the CEPC.  The CEBOK3 retains the perspective that undergraduate education should provide preparation in 4 specialty areas, and the CEPCTC reviewed and discussed the BOK recommendations on this topic.  Nevertheless, we will add your suggestion to our issues list for further review.  Again, thank you for your contributions to our efforts.

    ------------------------------
    Wayne Bergstrom Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE
    Principal Engineer
    Bechtel Corp
    Reston VA
    ------------------------------