- May I Help You by Jeff Selingo is about how some engineering schools are using service learning projects as capstone projects. Teams of engineering students define, design, build and test projects for nonprofit community organizations or government agencies. The idea is that these students will combine good engineering experience, a chance to build "soft" skills and get exposure to giving back to the community all at once. It also gives the students a real chance to see what engineering is all about: building things to make people's lives better. The experience at Perdue is that emphasizing this service learning program really help with recruiting women and minority students to engineering, since it brings out the human side of the profession. Great article, highly recommended.
Also check out Engineers without Borders (Canada, York U, donate Aeroplan Miles to EWB).
- Fertile New Ground by Thomas K. Grose is about the emerging field of engineering education research.
Purdue University’s Kamyar Haghighi is good at asking questions that, so far, have no answers. “Problem solving and design are the heart and core of engineering, but how do we learn those skills?” he asks. Moreover, do engineers learn their skill sets differently than other professionals learn theirs? “And what is critical thinking? What is innovation? How do you learn them?” There’s a note of slight exasperation in Haghighi’s voice when he adds, “We don’t even know the fundamental skills required to be an engineer.” The need to answer these and other basic questions, he says, is why there’s also a need for a community of scholars that can take a systematic, research-based approach to engineering education in order to more effectively teach America’s future engineers.
“In this environment, lifelong learning skills will not simply be desirable attributes of engineers but will be necessary for their professional survival,” the professors wrote. That’s a big reason why research that uncovers how we learn can help tomorrow’s engineers keep pace with fast-changing demands.