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Preparing Future Engineers

  • 1.  Preparing Future Engineers

    Posted 04-26-2019 03:12 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-29-2019 12:36 PM

    The world is certainly changing - what challenges will this present to civil engineers in 2040? 2060? 

    ASCE and the Department Heads Council (DHC) is sponsoring a Civil Engineering Education Summit, to be held on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, May 28-30 to discuss how engineering education can better prepare civil engineers for these challenges. I would like to start the discussion in this thread.

    Any/all persons interested in civil engineering education -- academics, practitioners, students, and others - How can we prepare future civil engineers to anticipate these challenges and adapt to societal needs?

    Kevin Hall Ph.D.,M.ASCE
    Univ Of Arkansas
    Fayetteville AR
    (479) 575-8695

  • 2.  RE: Preparing Future Engineers

    Posted 04-27-2019 03:57 PM
    My two cents are the areas of sustainability and resiliency. As the faculty who teaches hydraulics and hydrology (and this seems to be prevalent in all areas of civil engineering), we teach to current code, which is treated as a static force until a new code is issued. We try to inject issues of uncertainty into the discussion, but at its heart, we are teaching to code. Concurrent with their university education, most of our students have internships. Very few civil engineering firms in our area are designing to anything above the level needed to obtain the appropriate permit, so the students and employers want to ensure that the graduates are grounded in current code.

    We know that this is not right, but it is what we do. My students take a 400-level statistics class (which is an improvement on the 200-level basic one we used to require), but nowhere in there is uncertainty analysis covered. Students do not understand how to take a model and run multiple simulations on future scenarios based on appropriate ranges of certain parameters - in my case these are rainfall rates and extreme storm events that are becoming less extreme and more common. We can touch on this in capstone, but it is later than it should be in the curriculum. 

    Sustainability and resiliency require that students truly adopt the idea of life-long learning because our knowledge is constantly growing. It also requires an acceptance of uncertainty analysis and being able to interpret the results from those analyses. How can we redesign our classes and curriculum (and accreditation requirements) to push these ideas forward?

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

  • 3.  RE: Preparing Future Engineers

    Posted 04-28-2019 12:17 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-28-2019 12:17 PM
    I agree with Dr. Clark. As a hydrologist, I have been concerned about the increasing irrelevency of past hydrologic events in anticipating frequency and intensity of future hydrologic events. Our core ethics are dependent upon our ability to design systems that protect human life and property, yet our ability to effectively design these systems is in question. My mentor in stochastic hydrology, Dr. Tom Haan, made this threat clear to us in 1994 - our abiltiy to predict future hydrologic events is fully dependent upon the conditions that created the hydrologic record not changing. Well, those conditions have changed. Dr. Clark suggests we expand our curriculum at the undergraduate level to include more extensive experience in uncertainty analysis, risk assessment, and scenario analysis. I fully agree. I teach these concepts in my graduate Environmental and Ecological Risk Assessment course, but I think we should expand these skill sets into senior-level design instruction.

    Finding room in an already crowded curriculum is not easy. However, creating engineers who can design sustainable and resilient systems is also not easy.

    Marty D. Matlock, PhD, PE, BCEE
    Professor of Ecological Engineering
        Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department
    Executive Director, UA Resiliency Center
        Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design
    Sustainability House
    University of Arkansas
    Fayetteville, AR