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Integrating Science, Engineering, Design and Society

By Guest Blogger, Natalie Kuldell

I’m a scientist by training so—no big surprise– I’m excited to discover how the living world works. But new to me is just how powerfully students can learn the technical content when they try to build novel systems. Within the last few years of my teaching career I’ve had the chance to teach the engineering of biology and I’ve seen it bring a context and a joy to the hard work of learning. A student who wants a cell to do something interesting (detect a poison, fix a broken surface, make a medicine) will figure out how the proteins and DNA can work together to build a switch. The biology itself becomes a building material—the nouns and verbs that they can write sentences with, or

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the programming language that operates the “wetware.” When I ask the students to design and build, I see the book-learning move into the real world for them. When I put students into teams in order that they might benefit from each other’s ideas and talents, I preview the kind of professional they can someday become.

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Four Pillars of Engineering Education Reform that Will Attract (and Graduate) More Students

Over the last few decades, much time and energy has gone toward reform efforts in engineering education. This work has yielded a great deal of insight into the relative effectiveness of different teaching approaches, and has led to calls for the adoption of experimentally validated pedagogies in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). What the work hasn’t addressed as much, though, is one key fundamental question: What are the underlying values in engineering education?

We need to address values because they are critical for enabling real change in engineering education. After all, if you try to make a change in pedagogy or content without addressing the underlying value system, you are likely to fail, as value systems are the social equivalent of immune systems. Additionally, the values we hold greatly affect the experience students have, and, accordingly, who they become.

Following are four core values — or pillars for reform — we need to address when discussing engineering education.

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Support Manufacturing Day on October 5th

Guest post by Jim Warren, Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, To highlight the importance of manufacturing to the nation's economy and draw attention to the many rewarding high-skill jobs available in manufacturing fields, a group of public and private organizations recently announced the launch of Manufacturing Day for October 5, 2012. The effort is sponsored by the Fabricators & Manufacturers…

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Need a Strategic Plan? Consider SOAR in Place of SWOT

In strategic thinking circles, the SWOT model is a commonly used framework for strategic planning and stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  The model is generative and has been helpful to many strategic planners over many years. Having said this, there’s an alternative that is getting increasing attention called SOAR or strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results.  SOAR grows out of the movement toward appreciative inquiry in which emphasis…

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Singaporean Engineering Students Can Do “X”

ne of the many blessings in my life has been my ability to travel to and work in Singapore. I love Singapore’s energy, its rapid growth and accomplishments, the boldness of its aspirations, its sheer human diversity per square millimeter. I relish returning to Changi Airport, to stroll among the young people walking in West Coast Park after dark, to its colorful food markets, its busy streets, and the sophistication of its night scene. I enjoy hearing the diverse views of taxi drivers about politics and the economy and business. And underneath, I feel a gentleness of spirit that is as attractive as it is personally calming. These words are perhaps a strange way to start an article on engineering education, but I share these feelings, in part because I want to talk about the role of feelings and emotional variables, more generally, in the transformation of engineering education, but also because I want readers to understand that I know I have only begun to scratch the surface of Singapore, that my understanding of her is of a meager and cursory kind, that I have so much more to learn and experience in order for me to be considered “Singapore-educated” in any meaningful way.

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View or Share the Big Beacon Manifesto on SlideShare

The Big Beacon Manifesto is available on this site (here) or on SlideShare.   The latter is convenient for embedding in blogs, Facebook, or LinkedIn as in the viewer below: Alternatively, you can share the BB manifesto with your friends directly on slideshare using the link here.

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A Letter to Mr. Churchill: “You Are Not So Kind as You Used to Be”

Guest post by Garza Baldwin,

Below is a nugget that may interest students of leadership. It comes in the form of a letter to Winston Churchill written by
his wife Clementine in June 1940, just after her husband became Prime Minister. Speaking truth to power, she makes some observations that we all might wish to preserve in our Emotional Intelligence files. I have excerpted portions of the original post and Mrs. Churchill’s letter, and those interested in the original post can read the full Churchill article here and other letters on the delightful blog called

Full Post Source:

It’s difficult to imagine the stress experienced by Winston Churchill in June of 1940, as WWII gathered pace just a couple of months after he first became Prime Minister. Behind the scenes, however, the weight on his shoulders was noticed and
felt by all those around him , so much so that on the 27th of the month, his wife, Clementine, wrote him the following superb letter and essentially advised him to calm down and be kind to his staff.

(Source: Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills, via Mark Anderson)

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To Complain or Not to Complain

In coaching, one of the ways to help clients to achieve greater peace is to work to help them reduce the proportion of their day they are occupied with negative emotions, and one of the regular sources of negative emotion is complaining, especially complaining about particular others.

What is a Complaint?

What is a complaint? Merriam Webster gives the following definitions:

  1. expression of grief, pain, or dissatisfaction
  2. (a) something that is the cause or subject of protest or outcry (b) a bodily ailment or disease
  3.  a formal allegation against a party

The first sense of the term is the usual one in everyday usage, particularly the sense ofexpression of dissatisfaction.  To complain is to express dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and to lodge a complaint against a person is to express dissatisfaction with something they have done (or not done) or the way in which they have done it.

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Three Habits at Three Levels for Improved Engineering Education

Students in advanced economies today want to become anything but engineers (A.B.E.) and often choose to become lawyers, physicians, or businesspeople instead. Even those who do study engineering sometimes leave because (1) they are unable to align their aspirations with the subject matter as taught, and (2) a hostile, dismissive, or indifferent educational culture discourages the young people it is charged with educating.

Changing these things isn’t easy, but to use New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg’s phrase, we can use the power of habit at three different levels — at the personal, organizational, and system levels — to bring about change that attracts and retains bright young people to become the engineers our planet needs.

Habit #1: Noticing, Listening, & Questioning (NLQ). A keystone habit that could change education profoundly is the triple of noticing, listening, and questioning (NLQ) for both faculty and students. In his book The Power of Habit, Duhigg recalls the story of Alcoa Aluminum and how CEO Paul O’Neill returned the corporation to profitability by instilling the habit of safety. At the time, company observers thought this was a bad move, as they couldn’t see how safety would ever flow to the bottom line. But O’Neill believed that a focus on safety would bring about the needed individual changes that would align personal behavior with organizational needs, and time proved him to be correct.

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