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August 2021


  • NSF Releases Report on Science and Engineering Employment

Sponsored Content: NCEES

  • Milwaukee School of Engineering wins 2021 NCEES Engineering Education Award


  • Biden Administration Makes a Big Push to Increase Sales of Electric Vehicles


  • A New Engineering Education Metaphor: A Garden, Not a Pipeline


  • MIT Researchers use Graphene Foam to Efficiently Filter Uranium from Water


  • ASEE Presents Preparing the Workforce for Industry 4.0
  • Find Out What You Missed at ASEE’s Annual Conference
  • Prism Magazine Seeks New Student Columnist


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Milwaukee School of Engineering wins 2021 NCEES Engineering Education Award

NCEES is pleased to announce that the Milwaukee School of Engineering is the grand prize winner of the 2021 NCEES Engineering Education Award. The university received the award for a project completed by the Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management Department. The award jury met virtually on June 15, 2021, to select the $25,000 grand prize winner.

For the school’s project, Sustainable Improvements for Guatemalan Cardamom Spice Dryers, a team of primarily mechanical engineering students collaborated with professional engineers and other professionals to develop a low-cost metal attachment called a swirler, which is inserted into heat exchanger tubes in spice dryers. The swirler, at a one-time cost of two dollars, is made from sheet metal and a pair of tin snips and pliers. The solution will reduce deforestation and improve the overall quality of life in rural Guatemalan communities. The jury selected seven additional winners to receive awards of $10,000 each:

  • California State University, Los Angeles
    Department of Civil Engineering
    Sustainable Recycled Water Recharge Program
  • Christian Brothers University
    Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Department of Mechanical Engineering
    GO BaBy Go—MROC
  • George Mason University
    Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering
    Water Supply, Distribution, and Storage, San Pablo de Amali, Ecuador
  • Lawrence Technological University
    Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering
    Oakland University Interdisciplinary Research Center 
  • Seattle University
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Home for the Homeless Using Cross Laminated Waste Stream
  • University of Nebraska–Lincoln
    Charles W. Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction
    Virginia Tech War Memorial Hall: Integrative Team Design
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Village Stormwater Mitigation

Profiles of the winning submissions will be posted as available at



President Biden unveiled an ambitious plan this month to help bring electric vehicles to the masses. His executive order mandates that zero-emission automobiles, including plug-in hybrids, comprise at least 50 percent of U.S. new-car sales by 2030. Given that sales of EVs in the country now total a meager 2 percent, that target isn’t as overly optimistic as it sounds. As NPR reports, globally, most major automakers already have announced similar or even larger goals for EV sales. And many other countries have also put into place new regulations aimed at ratcheting up the sales of EVs. Britain, for example, has banned the sale of all gasoline- or diesel-fueled cars by 2030. “These [U.S.] sales targets are certainly not unreasonable, and most likely achievable by 2030, given that automakers have already baked in large numbers of electric vehicles into their future product cycles,” Jessica Caldwell, an industry analyst at the car data site Edmunds, told NPR. Accordingly, the CEOs of the United States’ three biggest carmakers, as well as the head of the United Auto Workers union, joined Biden on the South Lawn of the White House for the signing. They were flanked by several parked EVs, including a Ford F150 Lightning, a Chevy Bolt, and a Jeep Wrangler. To put some impetus behind his EV sales plan, the president also signed an executive order that restores and slightly strengthens automobile mileage standards that were weakened by his predecessor. The rules apply to model year 2023 cars and would cut by a third the amount of carbon dioxide produced in the United States annually. And, as the New York Times reports, the White House also has on the drawing board even more stringent emissions rules for passenger cars and heavy-duty trucks that are aimed at further prodding the industry to pivot to EVs. The Biden administration wants to overhaul the U.S. auto industry so it’s better able to compete with China, which now manufactures 70 percent of the world’s EV batteries, the Times says.






For nearly 40 years, engineering education has relied on a model based on a pipeline metaphor to make the profession more diverse, writes Laura Bottomley, an associate professor of electrical engineering and elementary education at North Carolina State University, in a paper presented at ASEE’s virtual CoNECD conference earlier this year. The model’s premise essentially says that efforts continually need to be made to better prepare K–12 girls and underrepresented minorities for careers in engineering and to get them excited about the profession, so they opt to journey through the pipeline to college and major in engineering. If not enough of them end up enrolling in engineering, or staying once they do, the assumption is the pipeline is leaky. So, repairs are made at critical junctions by setting up new programs to entice them in hopes of stopping the leaks. The focus is on the supply side, and students are seen as passive actors, Bottomley says. But after decades of Herculean efforts to make the model work, she adds, it’s clear it doesn’t. No progress has been made: Women continue to represent 20 percent of graduates and underrepresented minorities around 10 percent.

Bottomley suggests a new metaphor is needed: a garden. Her main point is that before you plant a garden, you prepare the soil. The analogy for engineering education: Instead of trying to change students, engineering educators need to change themselves. Just as a garden needs a diverse number of trees and plants to anchor it, engineering education needs a more diverse faculty. Bottomley argues that schools should publicly announce strategic plans for hiring more women and underrepresented minorities. She stresses that research proves that it is “not true” that there are not enough qualified job candidates to make that happen. Hiring procedures need to be redesigned to help reduce implicit bias, Bottomley says.

It’s not necessary to change all the student recruitment efforts underway in the K–12 space, but the emphasis placed on recruiting and retention needs to change, she says. For instance, retention should focus less on seminars for students that aim to teach them to succeed. Instead, more information and ideas should be given to faculty, including more workshops for faculty who teach introductory classes and more TA training. When students falter or indicate they want to drop out, it should not be assumed they’re not cut out to be engineers, because they may have other attributes that would make them good practitioners. All students should receive tutoring, not just women and minorities. All teaching materials should be linked to practical applications and simple everyday examples. Living and learning communities are a good idea. And the curriculum should be redesigned (again, to stress the use examples), and there should be more chances for student/faculty interactions.

Research proves all her recommendations work, Bottomley writes. She argues that more needs to be done to ensure that research-based teaching methods make it into the classroom and aren’t ignored. As she notes at the end of the paper, NC State has implemented many of these methods since 2009 and is seeing success, at least among women, including growing enrollments and retention and graduation rates on par with men.


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Some of the most pernicious water pollutants are invisible to the naked eye and difficult to filter out. Uranium, for instance, can end up in water supplies from mines, nuclear waste sites, and natural subterranean deposits. Even tiny concentrations of the metal can make people very ill. A team led by Ju Li, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, has now developed a filter to efficiently remove uranium from drinking water using graphene foam. By applying a small electric charge to the foam, it can capture uranium in a solution, which precipitates out as a condensed solid crystal. The graphene foam filter can be used seven times before it loses its effectiveness. The challenge facing Li’s team was devising a filter that could exclusively extract uranium without producing toxins as a byproduct. Past experiments with carbon fibers were promising, but the results were weak and imprecise. But the researchers got around the problem using graphene foam. One of the team members had investigated the behavior of the foam for use in lithium-sulfur batteries and realized it was able to attract certain chemicals. Graphene is the 2-dimensional material comprising a single layer of carbon atoms that’s super strong and highly conductive. Graphene foam is made from layers of single sheets of graphene. The researchers are now thinking of developing an inexpensive home water filter that can be affixed to faucets, for use in areas where uranium contamination is most likely to occur.





Job-hunting? Here are a few current openings:

1. Biomedical Engineering - 1 opportunity

2. Dean - 2 opportunities

3. Electronic Engineering Technology - 1 opportunity

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Engineering is at a crossroads, from how it’s practiced in industry to how it’s taught in the classroom. New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), nanofabrication, and the internet of things (IoT) have all shifted the engineering landscape. This event features a series of TED-like talks from industry and academic leaders, a member of the National Science Board, and other luminaries. This is THE opportunity to bring voices from academia and industry together to imagine and implement actionable outcomes during the most fluid state of education in centuries. Schools are at a crossroads, so let’s give them a roadmap. This moment will go down in history. Don’t miss it!

The event will take place in-person at Washington DC’s Historic Omni Shoreham Hotel, October 13–14, 2021. Register at the early-bird rate of $395. Visit the project website. We have reserved a block of rooms at the Omni Shoreham, with a single rate of $269 per night. Book rooms.



ASEE wants to thank participants for a great annual (virtual) conference last month. Couldn’t make it? Too many sessions to attend live? Simply want to rewatch a session? No problem. Sessions will be available online through July 19, 2022. Visit the conference website for information on how to view them whenever it’s convenient, whether or not you were able to attend live!



ASEE’s Prism magazine seeks a new student columnist to add their fresh perspective to its pages! The columnist should be a clear writer with strong opinions who, ideally, has at least two years left in school. The columnist will write two columns per year and receive $500 for each published article.

To apply, please email a resume, brief cover letter, and any writing samples you may have (newspapers, magazines, blog posts, papers, etc.—published is preferred but not required!) to by August 27, 2021 with the subject line “Student Columnist Application.”

Check out the latest column from our graduating student columnist, Amman Asfaw, to see what a column looks like.



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