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How would you innovate engineering education?

  • 1.  How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 10-09-2018 10:57 AM
    We all know engineering education needs to be reformed. There's a disconnect between research funding at large institutions and what students need to learn to succeed in the workplace. The work we do has become more complex, which would seem to require more education or training. At the same time, at universities, there is a push towards 4 year undergrad engineering programs (mine was 5) due to the ever-increasing cost of higher education.

    If you could wave a magic wand, how would you reform engineering education? Would you revamp the current system? Require a master's degree? Make your specific discipline (in my case structural) a professional degree after the initial 4 year undergrad? Provide more on-the-job training?

    P.S. This question is intended to spark open discussion regarding how we as a profession can move forward. It is not intended to assign blame to educators, practitioners, employers, or students, who are all doing their best to work within the system we have (and all have limited funds/resources). Please keep this in mind when responding.

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineers Rising LLC

  • 2.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 10-17-2018 11:44 PM
    I think ABET needs to require more from the engineering programs.  Internships are a very valuable way to learn things that are not taught in college.  I think that ABET will need to require the five year or more engineering programs to teach engineering students the minimum amount needed to be a professional engineer.  More credit hours are needed.  Internships can be worked into part of the engineering program.


  • 3.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 10-18-2018 10:08 AM
    I agree with Jeremy on the value of internships in the education of engineers and even as a requirement for a degree.  School teachers are required to do a semester of student teaching under the aegis of an experienced teacher in order to get their degree.   Not to put down the teaching profession (my wife's a retired elementary school teacher), but I believe that entry into the workplace for an engineer - especially with today's more limited requirements for a degree - is a lot more intensive and potentially intimidating.  What do others think about the requirement for an internship in order to get an engineering degree?

    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL

  • 4.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 10-18-2018 10:10 AM
    ​I think that the programs could help students get internships, but I am not sure that making it part of the curriculum is the way to go. I personally have no problem with universities pushing for students to finish in 4 years. Another year would mean more student loan debt for most students and the engineering program is not there to teach the minimum to be a PE, hence the years of practice that are required to get licensed. The degree is there to give you the foundation to build upon once you begin your career and have some knowledge of what you may be working on. Engineering is like being a surgeon, you don't graduate from college ready to perform complicated surgeries; you graduate with foundational knowledge that allows you to be instructed further by those with experience and they don't have to teach you the basics.

    I think that there is a disconnect with most degree programs as far as what is taught in the classroom and what you need to learn to succeed in the workplace, but I am not sure how you fix that or if you can. Doing research is different then working for a developer on a new subdivision; not that one is harder, just different. I would venture to say that most of us would pin our current success on what we have learned over the years practicing as engineers. I think being successful in the workplace has more to do with work ethic and attitude then what you learn at school from books. How many extremely book smart folks have you run across that maybe have not moved up to higher level roles because of attitude or how they deal with other people?

    One of the biggest issues that needs to be fixed is the student loan system. With it being federally subsidized there is no incentive for the university systems to keep cost down. I also think that we have to stop telling every high school student that the only way to have a good life after high school is to go to college; not everyone is college material and that is all right. I will always need a good mechanic to work on my cars and a good HVAC tech to work on my A/C at the house.

    Good to discuss these issues though because that is the only way we can find solutions.

    James Wilson P.E., M.ASCE
    Charleston Water System
    Charleston SC

  • 5.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 10-18-2018 01:46 PM

    I think that you have a great point.  Relevant, practical experience makes education worthwhile, and makes understanding engineering possible.  I think that if we had an internship program at most universities, it would decrease the number of engineers that graduate, work 4 months, then figure out that they hate it.  In my experience, about 1/3 of the graduate engineers never make it long enough to take the PE test.

    I do not believe more time at school has much benefit, and would object to any concept that requires more than 120-135 credit hours to graduate.  I think that this extra time in school is self defeating in that it causes engineering students to concentrate on the student aspect and not the engineering side of things.

    I disagree that this is an ABET problem.  Similar to any standards organization, when we start teaching to the test, or teaching to the minimum standard, we soon end up with the minimum standard as all that is achieved.  I also do not believe we need to make the master's degree the standard to practice.  We have well over 80% of the engineers practicing today that do not have more than a bachelor's degree and do well as engineers.

    I think one of the things that we might be able to do to make engineers more skilled in the non-engineering items that management companies crave is to open up our continuing education requirements to include, psychology of employees,  sociology of organizations, engineering history, architectural design, and survey skills.  I think that requiring 15 hours of continuing education is a good thing.  Maybe we should be requiring some of that to be in the soft skills that everyone in the education collaborate community is lamenting engineers lack.

    I agree that as engineers advance, they go from 95% technical and 5% social to 45% technical  and 55% social/organizational to even lower percentages of pure technical content.  But it is the need to be technical in the first 4-8 years that make it important that our education system not skimp on that portion of our education.  It is the strong basis in the technical aspects that help us protect the public.  The non-technical stuff helps us protect our company.

    Dwayne Culp, Ph.D., P.E., P.Eng, M.ASCE
    Culp Engineering, LLC
    Rosenberg TX

  • 6.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 10-22-2018 08:02 PM
    The California State education system has two Cal Poly schools in Pomona and San Luis Obispo that have developed a hands on five-year program.  The students must learn to run a sewer treatment and water plant laboratory, hydraulics lab (both open channel and closed channel), materials lab and concrete lab. They also required a senior project that gives them real world experience.  In addition, most juniors and seniors are recruited for summer and part-time jobs in the hopes these well-trained students will stay on for permanent positions. The professors are recruited that have professional careers before they enter academic instruction and they are focused on the students.  Instead of doing research, some involved students are recruited into doing summer projects such as building sewer systems and facultative lagoons in impoverished parts of the world.  They also have such a rigorous program only 25% graduate with an engineering degree.  They reserve space in their renowned finance/accounting majors for students that can't make it in engineering.  I understand that Kettering also has a very successful hands-on program that requires work study.  
    The Cal Poly schools also put a lot of demand on the students to prepare them for writing reports and gathering their own information and to use resources in order to complete assignments.
    I have eight family members that graduated from one of the Cal Poly engineering schools and all have found they impress managers with their educations. 
    These are good examples for any administrator wishing to produce excellent graduates.  

  • 7.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 01-21-2019 07:58 PM
    The California State education system has two Cal Poly schools in Pomona and San Luis Obispo that have developed a hands on five-year program.  The students must learn to run a sewer treatment and water plant laboratory, hydraulics lab (both open channel and closed channel), materials lab and concrete lab. They also required a senior project that gives them real world experience.  In addition, most juniors and seniors are recruited for summer and part-time jobs in the hopes these well-trained students will stay on for permanent positions. The professors are recruited that have professional careers before they enter academic instruction and they are focused on the students.  Instead of doing research, some involved students are recruited into doing summer projects such as building sewer systems and facultative lagoons in impoverished parts of the world.  They also have such a rigorous program only 25% graduate with an engineering degree.  They reserve space in their renowned finance/accounting majors for students that can't make it in engineering.  I understand that Kettering also has a very successful hands-on program that requires work study.

    This is why Cal Poly (Pomona and San Luis Obispo) are consistently ranked in the top 10 (non doctorate) for their Civil Engineering programs. The sister schools share a motto, "Learn by doing." Learn by Doing at Cal Poly involves aspects of both "experiential learning" and "discovery learning," which are sometimes treated as distinct forms of learning. Experiential learning the process in which students actively learn from the experience of testing hypotheses and assumptions. In experiential learning faculty members set out clear activities with defined learning objectives that students need to achieve. Discovery learning involves a faculty member setting a solvable but challenging problem for a student and allowing him or her to discover the solution.

    Chris Casey PE, LSIT, QSP/QSD, ENV-SP
    Civil Engineer

  • 8.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 10-24-2018 12:26 AM
    As I get nearer to the end of my career, I have found that most of my learning occurred after leaving University (about 70 %).  I went through a 5-year undergraduate program with an additional year of work experience included and a masters program.  I believe where the innovation in engineering education can occur is in the webinars and seminars after finishing university education.  University education programs must meet the requirements of a number of regulators and cannot experiment in meeting special needs of individuals, where individual seminars can.  The items that I have valued and made most use of  from university is self learning, my math courses, and structural analysis courses.  Most of my design knowledge  has  been updated and replaced by taking of e-courses and seminars. The most vital consultants I have dealt with continue to learn new things in engineering design into their 70's.

    David Thompson P.E., M.ASCE
    KTA Structural Engineers Ltd.
    Calgary AB
    (403) 246-8827

  • 9.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 10-25-2018 12:29 PM
    I agree with David. My 4-year engineering education did little to prepare me for the actual tasks that I was assigned in the workplace. It took about a year on the job to become fully productive. Here are two solutions, (I'm sure there are more):

    1.  Required internships folowing 4 years of class work or in between the last 2 years of classes. This would also extend the time for graduation by 6-months or so but hopefully provide a small income to minimize further student debt.

    2.  Receiving a Masters degree in the student's chosen specialty as a requirement for licensure, at least in the more complex specialties.  That is the route I took. I advise students to work for a year or two before starting a Masters program so they are more certain about the specialty they want to pursue.

    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL

  • 10.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 11-05-2018 02:08 PM
    I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned yet--

    There is a complete lack of breadth concerning soft skills and professional development within the engineering curriculum. It is astounding the amount of young engineers I've worked with that can't:
    1. Have a conversation on the phone.
    2. Explain to me what they're doing and why they're doing it.
    3. Interact with clients. 
    Like a lot of others said above me 70%+ of your engineering knowledge you learn in the field after graduation. I think that there is a lack of innovation from the civil engineering field and it stems from the inability to properly communicate ideas--something that's much easier to teach and get started on in school. Engineers must accept the fact that they will not change the world solely from behind their desk.

    Peyton Gibson EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Engineer in Training
    Littleton CO

  • 11.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 11-06-2018 05:29 PM
    Interesting Discussion. Ms. Gibson's comments were intriguing given my personal journey with the engineering professions. I've always been on the periphery of engineering (AS and BS Eng. Tech, MS Eng Mgmt, PhD Tech Mgmt). I love technical engineering but by the time I understood the licensing requirements I was working full time, took many unrelated courses at community college and transferred into a Bach. degree in engineering tech. (which carried the illusion as an engineering pathway) plus I was married and with my first born on the way. Recognizing the educational rework was unlikely, I opted for a technical management path (insert the non-engineer in charge of licensed engineers jokes here). I now work in a non-profit that funds land purchases, construction and engineering projects for religious based organizations (a very odd niche indeed). I've worked in faculty at a state university and community college and I've often counseled students of the importance of the PE rather than pursuit of a Master's or PhD.  The PE is and should be a BIG deal but its value is in the technical works.

    I recently saw an article that many CEO's have technical backgrounds. To me this makes so much sense, one doesn't need to know every technical nuance to set a project plan in place, but one does need to know when to call in experts and how to interrupt the output. In my opinion, and to provide a direct answer to the forums question, I would place a larger focus on the "how and why" of getting licensed very early on. I would also introduce the big picture of "how and why" projects become reality. Personally, I experienced a bit of disappointment when I realized my roles became less day to day technical as I rose in ranks. As one gains experience in this industry the big picture emerges and you make judgement calls on what's important and what is not. The fact that somethings are more important than others can be a really hard thing for an engineering minded student to compute.

    Jesse Kamm PhD, PMP, A.M.ASCE
    Vice President of Construction Management

  • 12.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-21-2018 07:11 PM
    Ms. Gibson expresses 'surprise' that the role the lack of mastery of the so-called soft-skills plays has not been part of this dialogue.

    No wonder!

    If one does not see it to begin with, then they would be ignorant. . . .not knowing. . . of what to say about it.

    Academics are fond of referring to the engineering courses as the 'hard' skills and human resources as the 'soft.'

    Well, within 2 years or less of doing real work, we quickly learn that its the very opposite!

    The technology is the 'soft' stuff and the 'hard' stuff is dealing with people.

    I mean like, why can't they be reasonable and just listen to me and do it the way I say?

    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

  • 13.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 11-07-2018 05:58 AM
    Resource and technical support is very important for undergrad projects. Reminds me of designing and then building a timber bridge for our undergrad final project. We were a group of six and there wasn't enough funding and facility to build up the bridge. We ended up building the 15 ft tall bridge in one of our group-mates backyard.

    Some of the universities lack technical labs and facility.

    Sayed Maqsood S.M.ASCE
    Oakland CA

  • 14.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 11-08-2018 07:53 PM
    The goal of the undergraduate engineering education is to provide the graduate with a foundational basis of technical skills (and hopefully communications skills) to be able to be trained by an engineering firm in the exact practice of that engineering firm. Civil engineering education is not a technical discipline that you can use to build a building. It should teach students how to craft a question to be solved and how to find the resources necessary to solve the problem. It should provide that foundation above so that a structural graduate looking at a design equation or modeling software knows how to turn the software on and generally how structural design and software operates. In hydraulics, we teach them how to do a simple exercise in HEC-RAS and SWMM. They are not experts, but they have the background to become an expert if that is the desire of the graduate and company. Colleges are not trade schools.

    The value of the graduate degree has been debated. My advisory board tells me that they are going to be looking for master's level project managers in the next few years to replace those that are retiring because the retirement boom is coming. They want a master's level person in that position because they have had the broader based training that looks at a subject area in a holistic manner and looks at how you can make changes because you understand the why behind the how.

    As an example, I had an undergrad who had an internship. I told the class we were going to discuss Time of Concentration and the various methods to calculate it. He interrupted me and said that, at the firm where he worked, they just used Tc as 5 minutes always. He had no clue why it would vary and what were the impacts of consistently using Tc equals 5 minutes. In more depth, that is the master's degree. Again, the degree is not going to tell you what exact codes you have to meet and the logic of how a firm prefers designs done and documented. But it does tell you how denitrification works so that as the regulations get more stringent, you can look at the options for a client, based on their wastewater stream, and determine which one is most appropriate, grounded in science.

    I also do professional development. PD is different from graduate education. PD helps you solve a problem, but rarely discusses how the problem and information can be broadened to think through a new problem.

    So fundamentally, how should we change engineering education? We are seeing some of it now. Senior level courses should be project based/design based. They are still not as complex as the real world client projects, but they are the step between textbook and "real life." We need to ensure that we link touching the material through hands-on demonstrations (or now computer-based demonstrations) with the lectures in a classroom. We need to think about the upper level classrooms as problem solving places, not only as empty vessels sitting there waiting for faculty to throw in a few papers of material.

    Shirley Clark P.E., D.WRE, M.ASCE
    Penn State Harrisburg
    Middletown PA
    (717) 948-6127
    Penn State HarrisburgProfessor

  • 15.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-24-2018 08:35 AM
    Thank you Dr. Clark for the more detailed response.
    I have selected (cut & paste) some parts for my thoughts to respond.
    ". . . .(and hopefully communications skills). . . .   It should teach students how to craft a question to be solved and how to find the resources necessary to solve the problem.". . . .And all of God's people cried out "A M E N !"

    Now, lets flash-forward to what I have learned from professionals doing a simple group exercise.

    1st, they are asked to list the problems they face in keeping their projects moving forward according to the terms of the
    contract's requirements for scope, schedule and budget. They understand that quality is part of each of those three project
    constraints, i.e. quality is conformance to requirements. When they are done, I list their problems vertically on the left
    side of the board.

    Next, I label 5 columns across the top, horizontally, "People," "Process," "Technology," "Leadership," and "100%."
    They are instructed to discuss in small groups of 3 to 4, what percentage they would assign to each of the 4 categories that
    contributed to the noted problem, such that horizontally that row always added up to 100%.

    Guess what, once done, the range of the values for the column "Technology" column becomes?

                                             What lesson does this teach us?

                                            What are you going to do about it?

                                        Who can help you make this transition?

    Q1. When you became a civil engineer, did you ever think you would need to become a better listener than talker, encourager than fault-finder, and have more to say to lower-level staff than "Step aside, I'll show you how its done?"

    Q2. When did you first realize that it was fear of having others saying you were wrong that formed your habit of not drilling down
    outloud on unclear issues at project startup workshops?

    Q3.  When did you first learn that 'communication' included not speaking, but  proactive engagement and encouragement while listening to others, e.g., "That's an interesting point, tell me more."

    "OK, OK, OK, but where's the proof this is an issue?"

    I estimate the CoF (Cost of Fear) to not engaging your people and others within the first 5 to 7% of a project's startup (at the very latest) this way:

    Your organization budgets around 15 to 30% profit on a new project going in, and when it is, in fact, wrapped up, if you earn 5%,
    you celebrate.

    Q. Where did that 10 to 25% of the profit go, and for what?

    I am told that despite such alarming evidence, the ASCE Continuing Education department still gets the majority of its demand for still more technical programs.

    Of course, I may be just dead wrong!

    Bill Hayden Jr.

    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

  • 16.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-22-2018 09:25 AM
    Indeed, the required engineering knowledge is greater than ever before, and it keeps increasing as new information, tools, and demands keep coming in. Because of that, it would be near impossible to cover it all by 4 years education or even 5 (my B.Eng. was 5). In Ontario (and most likely elsewhere), the bulk of education takes place after that: 4 years as a registered "Engineer in Training" under the supervision of a Professional Engineer(s). That's a total of 8 years minimum. Adding a Master's degree is quite popular now. Further, practicing Professional Engineers have to satisfy the requirements of an ongoing "Practice Evaluation and Knowledge Program" (PEAK), in order to maintain their licence. It seems that our professional associations are stepping up to the challenge.

    Neil Kazen, M.Eng., M.Sc., P.Eng.
    Retired Structural Engineering Manager, Transportation Division, SNC-Lavalin
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  • 17.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-24-2018 09:01 AM
    I have been interested in the conversation on this subject up to this point of time.  Everyone has provided thoughtful contributions.  Here are two fundamental questions; What is the goal of the education programs? What is key to innovation?

    I suggest that as far as regulators, such as  Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc in the United States or Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board are concerned, educational programs are to produce graduates who are trained to consistently provide safe designs in their fields.  Innovation is not and could be seen as a conflict to consistently provide safe designs.  I believe that it may be unfair to expect education institutes within their programs to encourage innovation.  This can be summed up in a quote I heard from a senior government official when designing a bridge, "the government is not paying you to provide an off the wall design so you can win a design award for innovation."  That portion of the bridge design was revised, but the whole project did win engineering awards for innovated designs.
    I believe the saying would be different if different groups had different tolerance levels to risk.

    One of the key aspects of innovation is being able to deal with unknowns.  My father during his time as a surveyor was involved in the massive change in surveying technology after the 2nd World War.   He was considered as an expert in the field till his retirement in the 1980's.  I asked how he handled dealing with the unknown.  His answer I consider key to innovations.  "  did not see the unknown as something to fear, but a challenge to overcome, a challenge to relish."  I was lucky that I was brought up in that environment.  So when people say something can not be done, then that statement becomes a challenge for me to overcome, whether it is an engineering problem or finding common ground between two points of view.

    David Thompson P.E., M.ASCE
    KTA Structural Engineers Ltd.
    Calgary AB
    (403) 246-8827

  • 18.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-26-2018 12:14 PM
    Hi David, in response to your thoughts overall, I am starting by selecting just one of your words, and the excellent points you make near the end of your advice. This comes from my learning and experience with the fundamentals of strategic management. While different folks will take odds with some, if not all of my meanings/definitions, what is important is that within any organization that undertakes such an effort, that group of folks start by agreeing to their definition of terms.

    "What is the goal of the education programs?"

    Briefly, first the executives of such an educational enterprise will have to state their mission and vision.

    Then, they will state their goals.

    One would expect such goals to lack the details of objectives, but to suggest the direction the executives expect to lead the enterprise.

    Then, each goal will have no less than 3, and perhaps as many as 5 objectives. Here we recall that legitimate objectives conform to the S.M.A.R.T. model.

    And then finally, each objective will have at least 3, and perhaps as many as 5 strategies to achieve that objective.

    Think of the strategies as the different "Road Maps" to reach each objective.

    And the objectives, once achieved, are the evidence that the goal for those objectives is achieved.

    At this point, if you are still reading and thinking, you realize why this topic is, more frequently than not, blown off.

    The effective and efficient practice of professional engineering within projects requires, as a minimum, technical competence combined with the willingness and ability "to play nice with others." This willingness and ability does NOT come naturally to at least 73% of engineers!

    Unless and until the executives who control the systems of engineering education, in partnership with the executives of practicing engineers in both the public and private sectors accept their joint responsibility to integrate real-world learning, the underperformance, accidents, lost profits, and loss of public trust will continue.

    P.S. Suggestion. . . .why not form and ask a Steering Task Force of Women . . . educators, engineers, attorneys, CFOs, COOs, CEOs... to get this sorted out? They have been dealing with nonsense for generations, and still have made progress that matters!

    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

  • 19.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-27-2018 11:13 AM
    I am glad to see the interest in Engineering Education. When this thread first surfaced, I wondered what responses would look like. It has been fun to watch it evolve and to see the positive trend! I recently left academia to finish out my career. I have about a decade of non-academic experience and almost 3 decades of academic experience – all at mid-level, research-intensive public institutions. I served in a variety of leadership positions including Department Chair and Associate Dean. While there are many things that I would like to comment on relative to this thread, I will focus this post on one simple question:

    "What can practitioners do to improve engineering education?"

    1. Offer/encourage internships at your place of employment – Internships are extremely valuable for both parties. Students can be very productive team members – often from the very beginning. How do you get started? Contact your Dept Chair; she/he may be able to provide good advice on salary and work-hour expectations during the academic year. I advertised every position that came to my attention to every student and kept the University out of the employer/employee relationship. Please don't ask them to recommend someone; they need to be equal supporters of all students. Instead, as you get closer to a hiring decision, ask specific questions about a specific student. Those, we can answer!

    2. Get involved with your local department and students – They need your help with resources ($), but they also need your time. Offer to speak to classes. Sponsor or offer to speak to an ASCE Student Chapter meeting. Do they have a student lounge? If so, provide food and "hang out" with the students for an hour or two on a regular basis. They want to hear from you; they just don't know how to get to you. You will be inspired by the students. There are many other opportunities to help such as Senior Design. A few things to keep in mind: a) be patient and persistent - it may take them a while to figure out how serious you are and how to use your offer to help (many offer, but never come through!); b) be flexible - there are many great ways to contribute and it might not be what you were thinking.

    3. Invite a professor (or your Dept Chair!) to an ASCE meeting (or other professional gathering) – Faculty get wrapped up in their activities and forget to get involved in the local community. We can complain, but a personal invitation from you to attend a specific function will almost always get them there. They will be honored that you think enough of them to extend the invitation. Most universities do no provide reimbursement for such activities. Yes, they can afford it, but when no on is reminding them, it is easy to get into the habit of not going.

    4. Include a professor as an external reviewer or technical contributor on your next complex project – Everyone complains that academia is "too theoretical" and "lacks practical examples." There is a reason – most faculty are busy with their full-time job of teaching, service, and research and don't have many opportunities to engage in practical engineering projects. Faculty are often some of the brightest individuals you will interact with and can usually provide great insights on projects, particularly in the very beginning phases (to help develop the approach and identify potential pitfalls) and in the very end (to look for major gaffs or errors). Almost all faculty contracts allow them to work a few hours per month outside of the University. Before I became an academic, I looked at this as just a way to pad their salary. It did not take me long to realize that this is essential to help faculty maintain a connection to CE practice. You will likely be surprised at how cost effective this connection can be. The winners, in the long run, are the students because now their faculty can relate class-work to real-world practice. Your practice will also win; I think you will be surprised at how useful the input may prove to be.

    5. Visit a local school (level does not matter!) to talk about Civil Engineering as a profession and carry along literature on their behalf – CE is losing the battle for incoming students. The best and brightest are choosing other engineering professions even though today's students are much more focused on helping society and improving the world than I every was. Unfortunately, they do not see CE as a "people-serving" profession. I hope ASCE will improve its communication to them, but the real opportunities are on the "front line." Make a commitment to visit your local school this academic year!

    Remember, change can start with you.

    This is a great thread. I hope that it continues long enough to discuss some of the more difficult and thorny issues surrounding CE education.

    Donald Hayes, PhD, PE (MS, LA, NV), DEE, F. ASCE


  • 20.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-27-2018 01:23 PM
    Thanks Dr. Hayes for the advice.
    I agree that the advice provided by our colleagues, and certainly your own, in response to the initial question "If you could wave a magic wand, how would you reform engineering education?" is clear. It is also traditional. No disrespect intended, but it has been proposed and implemented over the years with various levels of persistence. I beg your patience to consider a non-traditional challenge for the reformation of engineering education. . . learning how to play nice with others who do not think, speak nor approach challenges as you or I do. You know, just like in real-world projects!

    Agreement, disagreement and their "Cousins" are each and all part of the social-psychology 'family' that form . . . and challenge. . .  individual and group relations as a normal part of project work.

    Yet, with rare exception, our Civil Engineering students, women and men, are graduated believing they are prepared to enter the Civil Engineering Profession with little to no practical hands-on exposure to such learning.

    Worse, they are generally ignorant of this glaringly absent void in their educational preparation:

                                 A lack of educated insight as to what to do and how to do it
                                with regards to working within projects with people who
                                neither think nor communicate as they do.

    Although some would say "Hey, that's not my problem. It's the PM or FM's job!"

    This early formative educational void is a glaring deficiency in the career paths of civil engineers who eventually will be licensed to "protect the public's health, safety, and welfare."

    Q. "If you could wave a magic wand, how would you reform engineering education?" 

    Thank you for reading and considering my thoughts.

    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

  • 21.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-28-2018 10:33 AM
    Dr. Hayden,

         Thanks for your thoughts. The goal of my post was to provide specific steps - consistent with many of the ideas suggested earlier in the thread - for practitioners who want to help their local programs and current students immediately.

         As for the original topic...It seems that we all agree that e
    ngineering education needs major reform. My experience is inconsistent with the original post's assertion, "There's a disconnect between research funding at large institutions and what students need to learn to succeed in the workplace."  There is indeed a disconnect, but I have not seen any evidence that it is related to research funding or institutional size. Instead, there is a complex mix of confounding factors.

         ABET does a great job of ensuring quality UG engineering education regardless of institution. Individual programs can go beyond the minimum standard set by ABET and we have seen some of that in other engineering disciplines. Why do we not see that in Civil Engineering programs? For one, the Civil Engineering Program Criteria (CEPC, put forward by ASCE) adds enough additional requirements to the ABET minimums that the remaining degrees of freedom are limited. I am concerned that ASCE's ongoing BOK3 effort and plans to revise the CEPC may exacerbate that problem.

        NCEES has modified that FE exam so that it now focuses largely on discipline-specific questions, much like a mini-PE exam. That encouraged programs (maybe inadvertently) to de-emphasize engineering fundamentals. I believe that is a mistake. It is much easier for graduates to learn specific practices in their field through work experience than fundamental engineering principles.

        Most institutions now have "General Education" requirements for all majors as well as credit hour limitations for programs. Combined, these can limit student choices outside of their technical courses. I believe this is where we can interject some of the principles that you mentioned in your post. Every program that I am familiar with utilizes common, generic courses ("Intro to..."). I would love to see ASCE lead the way to design a range of social science concept courses that would include important topics for civil engineering students. If conceptual outlines were available, I believe that many institutions would offer innovative courses along these lines.

        Significant academic innovation can occur within the existing framework. Motivation has been the primary lacking ingredient. Programs cannot afford to lose their ABET accreditation, but there has been no incentive to try ambitious new academic projects. We need to change that.

         So, back to the question of "If you could wave a magic wand, how would you reform engineering education?"

    1. Simplify the CEPC (see MEPC for example) to allow for innovation.
    2. Develop a series of social science/humanities courses that provide more useful background for CE students than generic offerings.
    3. Develop "applications-based" math (Calculus and DE) and physics courses (in place of current, highly theoretical math and physics courses).
    4. Expand engineering fundamental course requirements.
    5. Expand interdisciplinary course options (basic science, computer science, GIS, etc.).
    6. Reduce the discipline-specific requirements (courses for 4 and 5 have to come from somewhere!).
    7. Change our regional ASCE competitions to focus on the humanitarian aspects of Civil Engineering.

       One last item, ASCE's Department Heads Coordinating Council (DHCC) is sponsoring a workshop on Innovation in Civil Engineering Education this Spring in Dallas (April @ SMU, I believe). Hopefully, someone can chime in with the details. I encourage everyone to participate. I think you will find that our academic institutions also agree that it is past time for significant innovation to occur.

    Don Hayes


  • 22.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-28-2018 12:07 PM
    Dr. Hayes, thank you for the additional thoughtful post. In my search for "Who else might be looking into this, I
    came across the following, most appropriate for educators like yourself, I believe.

    Thinking like an engineer: using engineering habits of mind to redesign engineering education for global competitiveness
    Our research found a high degree of consensus in answer to our first question 'How do engineers think and act?' This enabled us to articulate six engineering habits of mind which are: systems thinking, problem-finding, visualizing, improving, creative problem-solving and adapting. The endorsement of these six EHoM by engineers provided the evidence for us to suggest, in answer to our second research question, that the problem with the current education system at all levels is that it does not do enough to cultivate the habits of mind required by today's global engineers. Although there is considerable innovation at higher education, opportunities for young people to encounter engineering in school are far too few. Furthermore, there is little or no explicit acknowledgement that pedagogical methods might be chosen which would cultivate the EHoM that engineers told us they valued. We suggest the engineering teaching and learning community needs to consider re-designing engineering curricula at all levels which start from the premise that they are trying to cultivate learners who think like engineers, and we have suggested three starting points for considering these pedagogical methodologies.

    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

  • 23.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-28-2018 01:04 PM
    I really like the thoughtful discussion in this thread. To me, the most compelling way to evolve engineering education is to encourage and increase interaction between acedemia, students and practitioners. One example from my career:  I was invited several times by my Alma Mater, UMASS, to give presentations to students in Environmental Enginieering.  I chose topics such as Restoration of the Everglades and Engineering to Out Poverty. These types of topics are of high interest to today's idealistic students. I not only covered some technical aspects, but included the socio-political issues that accompany all major projects, including stakeholder involvement. I hope these students carried back to their professors the desire for more discussion along these lines.

    Inviting professors or to ASCE meetings, practioners to universities, students to conferences and internships, etc., will be eye-openers to all involved.  I would like to hear ideas from others as to successful ways that they have worked to implement this type of interaction.

    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL

  • 24.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-30-2018 11:25 AM
    The posts to this thread have been simultaneously thought provoking and frustrating. This topic deserves to be a panel discussion or a seminar. A couple of references to ABET have been made that reveal what may well be a fundamental misunderstanding about its role in engineering education in general and what programs must do to remain in business, including being "accredited." The last three paragraphs of this post pertain to innovation, whereas the three paragraphs below this point pertain to ABET and accreditation.

    I know something about ABET; however, this post is my opinion and not necessarily that of ABET or its Engineering Accreditation Commission. My career has been 100% practitioner with large consulting companies, plus <1/2% adjunct faculty member. I have been involved with ABET since the mid-1990s as a program evaluator for geological engineering programs, and from 2007 to 2015 as a member of Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) representing the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME-AIME). Since 2015, I have served on the Executive Committee of EAC, the members of which are supposed to represent the EAC as a whole, even though we all come from specific professional societies that are committed to quality assurance in engineering education. EAC is composed of representatives of ABET's member societies that have formal leadership in the review of specific undergraduate or master's level engineering programs for initial or renewing accreditation. In 2005, ABET stopped using the words that became ABET's logo when the accreditation commission in applied and natural sciences was added to commissions in engineering, engineering technology, and computing. All things ABET are publicly available at ABET's Accreditation process is ISO9001:2015 certified.

    I'm not an academician. I have learned through EAC visits to numerous colleges and universities that the first level of accreditation that must be met is at the institution level. In fact, in order for programs at an institution to be eligible for accreditation through one of ABET's commissions, the institution must have "governmental, national, or regional recognition to confer degrees" (Policy I.C.2). In the U.S., this is done at the regional level. It is my understanding that the general education requirements for institutions are set by this level of accreditation. Furthermore, these requirements, in conjunction with state legislative pressure for undergraduate degrees to be conferred in four years, has squeezed engineering programs to give up engineering content to remain in business because that is what they can control.

    "Programs accredited by EAC are those leading to the professional practice of engineering" (Policy I.C.3.c). ABET's commissions accredit programs, not departments or institutions, and have criteria that establishes curricular content of programs in general terms. About 20 years ago, ABET modified its criteria for undergraduate programs away from bean counting and to student outcomes. ABET's requirements for baccalaureate-level degree programs are eight general criteria, five of which are common to all four of ABET's commissions (1. Students; 2. Program Educational Objectives; 4. Continuous Improvement; 7. Facilities, and 8. Institutional Support). The other three general criteria are unique to each commission (3. Student Outcomes; 5. Curriculum; and 6. Faculty). Program-specific requirements within areas of specialization are supplemental to ABET's general criteria; EAC program-specific criteria are limited to 1. Curriculum and 2. Faculty. Program criteria for civil and similarly named engineering programs were developed by ASCE, proposed to the EAC Criteria Committee, which is composed of one representative from each of EAC's member societies, approved by the EAC, accepted by ABET's Engineering Area Delegation, and approved by ABET's Board of Delegates and Board of Directors.

    The word 'innovation' does not appear in the EAC general criteria or in the program-specific criteria for any engineering program. A nine-year process to review and improve the student outcomes criterion concluded this year and will be implemented starting with the 2019-20 accreditation cycle. This criterion requires engineering programs to have student outcomes that support its program educational objectives, and recognizes that attainment of the student outcomes prepares graduates to enter the professional practice of engineering. Student outcomes consist of seven abilities that graduates must attain, with recognition that programs may wish to include one or more additional student outcomes. The continuous improvement criterion requires programs to assess and evaluate the extent to which student outcomes are being attained, so the opportunity to add a student outcome comes with a burden that it be assessed. In my mind, "innovation" is similar to "sustainability"; it rolls off the tongue, but takes on different meaning in different context. Therefore, if you are tempted to get a civil engineering program to add an "innovation" student outcome, the program faculty members will be required to assess the degree to which graduates have attained that outcome.

    I can see lots of innovation opportunities in EAC's student outcomes (1) through (7) without adding any words (note that the word 'sustainability' does not appear but the elements of engineering sustainability are present as a group of words):
    1. an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics.
    2. an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors. 
    3. an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
    4. an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts. 
    5. an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives. 
    6. an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions. 
    7. an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.
    Don't be a ninja engineer. Some comments in this "innovation" thread mentioned guest lectures on innovative topics. Such guest lectures by practicing civil engineers are wonderful for students and faculty, and add a dimension to undergraduate education that is powerful. However, to show up, give a stimulating lecture, and then disappear is my 'ninja' analogy. Consider becoming an EAC program evaluator for ASCE -- you would serve the needs of the profession by reviewing programs against the EAC general criteria and the civil engineering program-specific criteria. Consider becoming a program- or department-level industrial advisory board member in your local area or with your Alma Mater program. You would be able to contribute to the program educational objectives (EAC criterion 2) to ensure that "they remain consistent with the institutional mission, the program's constituents, and [the EAC] criteria." If program constituents want innovation, then you can help get that reflected in the program educational objectives, which the student outcomes must support, but not necessarily in a way that must be assessed as an independent student outcome. This role would be doubly powerful if you also were an EAC program evaluator, because you would understand the burdens that come with the opportunities. Once you get accustomed to conducting EAC accreditation evaluations for civil engineering programs, make it known to ASCE that you would be willing to represent ASCE as one of its 12 representatives on the EAC (currently 4 are from industry) for a 5-year term. The EAC would like to have nearly even split between commissioners from universities and from industry (consulting companies, design companies, and government agencies), but overall EAC industry representation is approximated by ASCE's numbers.

    ABET is a quality assurance organization, not a regulatory body. ABET began as the educational standard used by state licensing boards in the United States for engineers seeking P.E. licenses. ABET's commissioners and program evaluators volunteer through professional societies to perform peer-review of accredited programs against published criteria for quality assurance purposes. ABET's commissions do not compare or rank programs; programs voluntarily seek ABET accreditation as part of their own quality assurance efforts.

    Jeffrey Keaton Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, P.G., ENV SP, F.ASCE
    Principal Engineering Geologist
    Amec Foster Wheeler
    Los Angeles CA
    (323) 889-5316

  • 25.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-31-2018 09:56 AM
    Jeffrey, thanks for your detailed and thoughtful post even if you did call me a ninja engineer. This thread has been going on quite a while, ABET's role has been alluded to, but you are he first to give first hand information regarding ABET's activities and suggest a way for non-ninja engineers to get involved in their process. I hope your post motivates some to get involved with ABET in the manner you suggest.

    I particularly liked the newly developed seven goals ABET has set forth. The teamwork and communication goals are right in line with suggestions from posters in this thread.

    Happy New Year to all.

    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL

  • 26.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 01-04-2019 12:51 PM
    I have had the opportunity to work in consulting engineering, big government, and at one private and one state college. I have seen many engineers come and go. The best prepared engineers have a few things in common. I have been reading several of the posts and have observed some good ideas. I suggest that we consider what is best for the student and their immediate impact on engineer employers. I suggest that both private and state universities require at least one off site internship and that students pass the FE prior to graduation from any Civil Engineering College. These two simple changes will give students a better chance of meeting outcomes 1-7 presented by Jeffrey Keaton presented on 12-29-18. The students get better jobs and employers will get better prepared engineering graduates.

    David Schiess, Ed. D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Shelley ID

  • 27.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 01-05-2019 10:22 AM
    Additional ABET-related experience: I realize that this is an ASCE dialog. A number of engineering programs currently require students to take the FE exam, but not to pass it. The scoring details from the FE exam are used for evaluating the extent to which student outcomes are being attained (Criterion 4). Making a passing grade a graduation requirement would be untenable with demands for degree programs to be completed in four years. Furthermore, this can't be a requirement in the EAC general criteria because many branches of engineering do not require licensing for professional practice (e.g., software engineering) or have unique requirements (e.g., marine engineering) that are not covered in FE exams. The place for FE exam and internships is in the program-specific criteria, or it can be simply the choice of programs based on input from their constituencies, including industrial advisory boards composed of employers, alumni, and others. The way that the choice becomes the practice is in the documented processes that programs use.

    Jeffrey Keaton
    Principal Engineering Geologist
    Los Angeles CA
    (323) 889-5316

  • 28.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 01-05-2019 11:02 PM
    ​It's heartening to read so many great ideas being presented on this thread by knowledgeable long-practicing engineers, with such enthusiasm and caring for the profession.

    May I share my experience from a different angle? It helps t, at least, to have a glance at European engineering education. My "Mechanics 101" course, oversees, 1964-1965, relied on two textbooks: "Engineering Mechanics" by Timoshinko and Young (which I believe was widely used at American Universities), and "Theoretical Mechanics" translated from French by a local professor. The first was common-sense mechanics for everyday life. The second addressed Mechanics at its highest level; it was by far the most difficult book in the whole year. We had heated arguments about the merits of the American common sense vs. the French high level theory. A proponent of the French said "think what you would do when you face a problem out of the ordinary: common sense won't be enough; you have to rely on fundamental high theory to innovate your new path". In that same year, our "Calculus and Analytic Geometry" textbook was by Thomas (another American classic textbook at that time). Integration problems needed a lot of practice, so I added a Russian textbook (translated to English by Mir publishing) to practice more integration problems; they were vastly more complex than those of the American textbook. Later, at the "Theory of Elasticity" graduate course at an American University, we studied torsion of prismatic bars of general cross section. That was advanced enough, but to my surprise, I found that in a Russian book (translated to English) the same problem was addressed to a multi-material in the same prismatic bar. It was far more sophisticated than that of our American textbook.

    How are we doing in North America vs. others? How much is our efficiency money/results compared to others? Are we spending too much dollars to barely compete with others?

    Those of us, who are old enough, remember the shock we had when the Russians lunched "Sputnik 1" in 1956.

    It doesn't hurt to have a peak at European education: can we use any of it in our education system?

    Also, adding Master's degree requirements helps. But we need to keep connected with industry demands as well. The bulk of education takes place after graduation. Currently, in Ontario, a new graduate (regardless of how high the academic degree is) needs to be registered for 4 years as an "Engineer in Training" under the supervision of a Professional Engineer(s). Further, practicing Professional Engineers have to satisfy the requirements of an ongoing "Practice Evaluation and Knowledge Program" (PEAK), in order to maintain their licence.

    Neil Kazen, M.Eng., M.Sc., P.Eng.
    Retired Structural Engineering Manager, Transportation Division, SNC-Lavalin
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  • 29.  RE: How would you innovate engineering education?

    Posted 12-31-2018 11:22 AM
    Colleagues - I am responding to Don Hayes' mention of the Innovation in Civil Engineering Education event in Dallas this spring.

    I am one of the Program Cmte Chairs along with Kevin Hall from the Univ of Arkansas. Barbara Minsker from Southern Methodist University is the local Planning Cmte Chair. The event is entitled the ASCE Civil Engineering Education Summit and is May 28-30 at SMU. A summary of the event from an email I distributed to Civil Engineering Department Chairs/Heads earlier in the fall is provided below. Ignore the 12/21 date - if any of you are interested in attending please contact a Chair/Head in your area and asked to be nominated.

    "Join us at the 2019 ASCE Civil Engineering Education Summit

    Now is the time to reflect on where we have been, where we are, and what will be needed in the future for civil engineering education.

    Technological and educational changes are occurring at ever-increasing rates, promoting more entrepreneurial thinking and the importance of experiential and lifelong learning.  How can we educate civil engineers to work in a multi-disciplinary arena with other engineers, scientists, and futurists to create new knowledge and technologies that anticipate and adapt to changes necessary for societal good in the 21st Century? Join civil engineering educators and innovators from across the nation, including a colleague in your Department you <g class="gr_ gr_500 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim Punctuation only-ins replaceWithoutSep" id="500" data-gr-id="500">feel</g> thinks innovatively about the future of education, as we collectively strive to answer this and other important questions facing higher education 25, 30 and even 50 years into the future.

    We expect that the Summit registration site will be open by early January and will send another email at that time. In the meantime, you are invited to nominate one colleague to attend the Summit from your university and one industry colleague by filling out the survey here. We will send an invitation to your nominee once the registration site is open. At that time, registration will be on a first-come, first-serve basis until the summit is full (capacity 300 attendees)."


    Daniel Linzell, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE
    Voelte-Keegan Professor and Chair, Department of Civil Engineering
    Department of Civil Engineering
    University of Nebraska–Lincoln
    The University of Nebraska
    844 N. 16th St., N104 SLNK, P.O. Box 886105, Lincoln, NE 68588-6105
    205E Peter Kiewit Institute, 1110 South 67th Street, Omaha, NE 68182-0176