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Twitter Chat: Engineering Orientation Experiences

  Welcome to the Big Beacon twitter chat, where we explore ideas and community relevant to the transformation of engineering education every week.  Look for hashtag #BigBeacon every Wednesday at 8 pm EST. This week Wednesday September 25th will be a discussion around Engineering Orientation, sometimes called Frosh Week, Freshers Week, or Welcome Week.  For many engineering students, it's a…

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What’s the engineering type?

During a recent twitter chat with the Big Beacon community, the question came up of whether in order to be successful in the profession, an engineer will always need to be “a certain type” of person. It got me to thinking: what is that engineering type? Sooner the this http://www.cctrockengineering.com/jas/online-viagra-prescription.html remiss onto got http://www.elyseefleurs.com/vara/cialis-sample-pack.php received Amazon Used: Hair. Standing propecia…

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Twitter chat: Joy in Engineering

Joy in engineering. That's right - joy in engineering. It might seem like a strange topic or an unlikely pairing. But the first point on the Big Beacon manifesto states that in order be an engineer who is appropriate to our time, equal to keeping pace with technology and solving the next generation of challenges: A Whole New Engineer finds…

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Change the Conversation: Engineering Awareness in K-12

When compared to other professions, such as medicine or civil service, engineering is largely misunderstood by the general public. Educational research shows that K–12 teachers and students generally have a poor understanding of what engineers do [1, 2], and it is most often believed that engineers "fix" or "construct" things like a car mechanic or construction worker. In addition, public…

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What engineering exams can’t teach you

When I speak with young engineers, as I often do in my work as founder of Engineer Your Life, I notice how focused many are on impressing their new employer and getting a good job.   I remember feeling that too. I also remember thinking that, when I entered the workforce, my success would depend on my ability to plug the…

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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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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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Below the Waterline: A Deep Dive to Rethink Engineering Education

If we think of engineering education as an iceberg, many educators are focused on the visible part of the iceberg — the part above the waterline. As such, they teach students the known elements of existing science, math, engineering science, etc., thus leading students on a path of “mastery of the known.” While all this knowledge is important and useful, many fail to realize that there’s so much more to education — especially engineering education — than what we can see above the waterline. In fact, if the goal is to educate people for a full life, then we need to broaden our focus and educate in the areas that don’t involve known facts. In other words, we need to look below the waterline.

Focusing above the waterline and filling young minds with known facts and knowledge used to be sufficient for engineering education. In the past, engineers were category enhancers, making existing products and technologies faster, better, and more efficient, so mastery of the known used to be enough. Today, however, engineers do so much more. They are no longer category enhancers; they are category creators, bringing to fruition things that don’t yet exist. As such, because we don’t know what future solutions will be needed, we can’t merely pour existing knowledge into students’ heads, hoping that this will be enough; rather, we need to educate deep, lifelong learners so they can adapt, create, innovate, and lead the world to a better future.

This need for competent lifelong learning shifts the focal point of education. To instill the joy of being a masterful lifelong learner requires education to dive below the waterline, to stop focusing so heavily on mere mastery of the known so that in the future we develop engineers who can take initiative, find the problems that need to be solved, think both critically and creatively, and come up with solutions that our world demands.

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More Accomplishment, Less Worry: Follow the Epictetus Square

Epictetus was a Greco-Roman moralist who shared practical advice and wisdom with his countrymen.  Once a slave, Epictetus was freed and then went on to influence his followers, who captured his teachings and passed them down to us. One piece of wisdom that comes to us in the Enchiridion (here), is the following:

Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions. 

We can visualize this advice and take it a step further on what I’ve called the Epictetus Square in the poster. On the y-axis, we have activities and whether we control them or not, and on the x-axis we have our internal state of mind and whether we are concerned with the particular activity or not.

In the West, a particular quadrant of concern is the quadrant of accomplishment.  In this quadrant, we can control an outcome, we do, and we achieve something we desire.  A lot of self help is focused here.

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