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ASEE Connections

January 2017




In This Issue: Products & Programs

Is Your University Working on Projects That Involve Model-Based Development and Mechatronics?

Subject Matter Reports distributed to all ABET-accredited programs

ASEE Promotion:

ASEE's Exclusive New "Engineering Education Suppliers Guide"
A new online resource designed specifically to help engineering educators locate products and services for the classroom and research.
Learn More



In the years 2011-2015, African American men received 11, 516 engineering and engineering technology degrees, according to ASEE’s Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology Colleges. The fields listed below account for 65 percent, or roughly two-thirds, of that total. Mechanical engineering had the largest percentage of black male graduates, followed by electrical and civil engineering. There was a three-way tie for the fourth spot between Other Engineering Disciplines, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science (inside engineering). Chemical Engineering had seven percent of the total.

Source: Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology



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Is Your University Working on Projects That Involve Model-Based Development and Mechatronics?

The demand for mechatronics engineers is huge across the global manufacturing market. Today's modern world offers a broad range of products that incorporate software and electronics components, making mechatronic product development a hot commodity.

Most technology-based universities now offer degrees in mechatronics engineering. These programs embrace application projects that fuse mechanical, electronic, computer, systems and control engineering disciplines.

Some examples of the kinds of mechatronic projects engineering students are working on right now at universities around the globe include: Components for hybrid and electric vehicles, robotic systems, driver assistance systems, green technology, electric motors and drives, medical devices, etc.

If your university is working on a project that involves model-based development and mechatronics, you should look into Advanced Control Education (ACE) Kits available through dSPACE.

ACE Kits are combined packages of high-performance hardware and software tools for developing and testing mechatronic control systems in classrooms and research projects.

The tools in an ACE Kit make it easy to visualize even the most complex open and closed loop controls, from the initial draft using block diagrams to the final online optimization of the controller in real time.

ACE Kit software works in a standard Microsoft® Windows® environment. The provided tools automatically migrate your control system design from the Simulink® environment to dSPACE real-time systems in a matter of seconds, and experimenting and analyzing system design is simple.

ACE Kit hardware ranges from systems with a fixed number of I/O to modular, expandable systems that can be fully customized.

With an ACE Kit, you can introduce your students to the latest development tools and methods that are being used by real-world industry.

To request more information on exclusive offers for academia, click here.



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NCEES Subject Matter Reports Distributed to All ABET-Accredited Programs

How well do your students measure up against their peers from other ABET-accredited programs?

Hundreds of engineering educators just received their school’s NCEES Subject Matter Reports. Distributed biannually each January and July, the reports provide in-depth analyses of how students performed on the FE exam relative to peers from other ABET-accredited programs.

As the only nationwide engineering exam designed for college seniors, the FE exam is an excellent source for feedback on how well students meet the outcomes prescribed by accreditation criteria.

NCEES provides a variety of resources for engineering educators to use for effective outcomes assessment.

To find out who is receiving the report for your institution, email institutionreports@ncees.org.





Donald Trump has railed against trade and immigration as the main causes of job losses in the United States. But in fact, more jobs have been lost to technology than anything else, economists say, prompting a warning from President Obama in his farewell speech. ’The next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete.’ The number of jobs that will be subsumed by automation is growing, too. A McKinsey study says 51 percent of Americans do jobs that can eventually be done by machines. Only 21 percent of jobs are entirely safe from the march of robots. The problem for policymakers, the New York Times notes, is that the government does all it can to boost new technologies, because they improve productivity, which generates economic growth. So policymakers need to find ways the mitigate technology’s negative affect on employment. A December White House study, the Times reports, says one solution is education, giving more Americans the skills required to remain employed. The study also recommended more apprenticeships and retraining programs for people turfed out of their jobs by machines, and perhaps giving them higher levels of government assistance. The Obama White House also suggested a program of wage insurance for folks who have to take new jobs that pay less than their old ones.


Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPay cofounder and Silicon Valley investor who gave high-profile backing to Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign, is considering running for governor of California next year, according to Politico. The online magazine based its story on “three Republicans familiar with his thinking,” but notes that others close to Thiel, 49, are skeptical he’ll actually run. With a net worth estimated at $2.7 billion, the entrepreneur would be capable of self-funding a race that could cost more than $100 million. But Thiel—and, indeed, any Republican candidate—would face stiff headwinds trying to win in the Golden State. Democrats comprise 44 percent of California’s electorate, Republicans 24 percent. Trump got barely 30 percent of the vote in California, where retiring Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is highly popular.




Cloud Sourced

Dropbox, Google Drive and similar platforms enable students to share, teachers to listen.

By Chris Rogers

In my continued pursuit of diversity in student solutions in the classroom, I have found that the cloud becomes an invaluable tool for both project development and assessment. As teachers, we are trying to get a story—an understanding in our own head—into the heads of our students. That could be the story of how electricity flows, how Napoleon lost at Waterloo, or how to design a robot. We can do this in three ways. One, we can tell them our story. Two, we can show them our story. And three, we can listen to their stories and discuss until our stories align.

For parents who have had teenage kids, we know that simply telling is typically not too effective at getting them to understand our story. However, when teaching kids how to use the table saw, letting them explore on their own can lead to the loss of a finger or two, something that is usually deemed a bad thing. Good teaching is a balance of telling, showing, and listening—a balance that we often forget as teachers, even if, as parents, we learned it long ago. Many students consequently miss out on experiencing a high school or college science class where they are given a chance to have their own opinions and argue for the validity of their scientific thinking, especially if their thinking is counter to the accepted theory.

So where does the cloud step in? I can tell 20, 400, or 3 million people my thinking with equal ease. YouTube has an amazing array of talented teachers explaining their stories. Showing, which for me means including recipe-driven labs or online tutorials, can also scale in proportion to how well defined the steps are. Listening, however, does not scale well. How can someone listen to the thinking of all 3 million viewers? The issue is a problem of size. Obviously, we can no longer rely on the teacher doing all the listening and instead must delegate some of that listening to others. Peer-to-peer listening is one scalable solution that has been successfully employed everywhere from the physics classroom (for example, Eric Mazur’s work at Harvard) to online forums.

If I want students working on different solutions to the same problem, then there is no such thing as cheating. There is no one right answer, so getting students to share their work only improves the work and, by extension, the learning. Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive allow students to easily share work—both the journey and the finished product. Imagine asking your class to program a robot but not defining the programming language or the sensors used. Suddenly, the shared folder contains similar code, but in JavaScript, LabVIEW, MATLAB, and C. Students can go investigate how Carol used the camera to have the robot follow the line while Robert used a light sensor. They can compare the advantages and disadvantages of each sensor or each programming language, or, of course, each robot design. They can even use someone else’s design or code as the beginning of the next assignment, learning as much from each other as from the professor.

The cloud further promotes collaboration through shared online applications. Onshape (www.onshape.com) can have five students designing five different interlocking parts at the same time on the same model. Google Docs facilitates collaboration on lab write-ups, journal articles, and grant proposals. One of my favorite tricks is to use a Google Slides stack for student presentations. It allows us to go seamlessly from one speaker to the next without the need to switch out computers.

Finally, the cloud helps teachers rethink our curriculum. As we move more in the direction of promoting engineering learning for students of all cultural backgrounds and ages, we need to find new ways to make engineering accessible, to integrate it with other subjects, and to link it to different disciplines (see http://ceeo.tufts.edu/research/projectsMEIDC.htm). The cloud can help the instructors just as much as the students. Faculty sharing assessment methods, action research results, classroom activities, and failures and successes help us all improve the learning that is happening in our classrooms.

Today, the cloud can tell a story through a YouTube or Vimeo movie. It can show it with Instructables or online recipes. And it is just starting to listen through forums and shared folders. Companies like Prysm.com are already experimenting with sharing an entire computer desktop. Sharing and collaboration are spilling into the physical world with augmented reality. With the growth of machine learning, one could imagine an exciting (and slightly scary) future where the computer not only facilitates one person listening to another but also listens, questions, and discusses with the learner as well.


Chris Rogers is a professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University. crogers@tufts.edu




Sources of Gender Disparities in Learning

College experiences affect male and female engineering students differently.

By Hyun Kyoung Ro and David B. Knight

Engineering programs have provided a variety of college experiences to improve the recruitment and retention of female students. Following Terenzini and Reason’s college impacts framework, we defined college student experiences as curricular emphases (what students learn), instructional approaches (how students learn), and co-curricular experiences (what activities students participate in outside of class). In this study, we investigated how those experiences affect engineering learning outcomes for men and women differently.

This study was part of a larger cross-sectional investigation of curricular, instructional, and organizational practices and policies, as well as undergraduate engineering students’ educational experiences and learning. We used a nationally representative, weighted survey sample of 4,901 students in 120 engineering programs in the United States. Independent variables included a variety of college experiences: curricular emphases on core engineering thinking, professional skills, and broad systems perspectives; instructional approaches such as group learning and student-centered teaching; and co-curricular participation in different types of clubs. Dependent variables were self-reported learning outcome measures that have been emphasized by engineering programs, the ABET accreditation process, and members of the engineering workforce: fundamental skills, design skills, contextual competence, interdisciplinary skills, leadership skills, communication skills, and teamwork skills. We used a multilevel regression approach to test how college students’ experiences influence those learning outcomes differently by gender.

Results show that women self-reported lower fundamental and design skills than men, after controlling for other student characteristics and experiences. Although women reported lower design skills than men overall, they reported higher design skills than men when they experienced higher levels of emphasis on professional skills in their courses, such as project management skills. When taught in an environment that emphasizes professional skills, women may learn design skills better or have higher self-confidence about their design capabilities. When women reported that their instructors more often used student-centered teaching methods, they also reported higher design skills, whereas the use of this pedagogy did not correlate with men’s design skills. This finding is consistent with previous literature, which indicated that small group experiences enhance the attitudes and achievements of women in STEM fields.

Men and women also differed in self-reported leadership skills when curricular emphases differed. While women reported higher leadership skills when their curricula more strongly emphasized professional skills, men reported higher leadership skills when their curricula more strongly focused on core engineering thinking. These findings accord with the argument supported by the literature that men and women prefer different curricula that may enhance students’ interests differently; this difference in preference may result in differential learning between men and women.

Women who participated in non-engineering clubs or activities (e.g., civic or church organizations, student government, Greek life, etc.) reported greater fundamental skills, contextual competence, and communication skills than men. Women who participated in engineering clubs for women or underrepresented minorities (e.g., National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, or Society of Women Engineers) reported higher communication skills than men. Participation in such organizations may provide a peer network through which women can learn from one another collaboratively, provide leadership and mentoring opportunities that may boost their confidence levels in their own skill sets, or provide experiences to help them develop their skill sets in environments outside the classroom.

We did not find any significant relationship between gender and self-reported interdisciplinary skills. Although women may prefer broad, interdisciplinary approaches for presenting content and contextual consideration in solving engineering problems, our study suggests that it would be incorrect to assume that they have greater self-assessments of their interdisciplinary skills than men.

We suggest continuing to investigate specific experiences that programs could offer as ways to help female students develop a variety of learning outcomes. Our approach demonstrates the importance of investigating interaction effects by student demographics to uncover how college experiences affect subpopulations of students differently.


Hyun Kyoung Ro is an assistant professor of higher education and student affairs at Bowling Green State University and David B. Knight is an assistant professor and director of international engagement of engineering education at Virginia Tech. This article is excerpted from ’Gender Differences in Learning Outcomes from the College Experiences of Engineering Students,’ in the July 2016 Journal of Engineering Education, based on work supported by the National Science Foundation Grant 0550608.




Job–hunting? Here are a few current openings:





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COVER: Does National Science Foundation Director France Cordova have the answer to lack of diversity in science and engineering?

FEATURE: The dark side of open access—the proliferation of predator and imposter journals.

PLUS, The best of Columbus, Ohio, site of ASEE’s 2017 Annual Conference.





ASEE administers a number of fellowship and research opportunities with funding provided by federal agencies. In this webinar, learn more about the importance of fellowships and the application process, and explore several fellowships offered by ASEE. January 25, 2017, 1 - 2 PM, ET. Learn more.


This new feature, produced by Nathan Kahl, debuted with a report on the Mobile Virtual Player, developed by students at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering. Listen to this and subsequent podcasts here.


Three sections will be merging their Spring, 2017 conferences with a Zone 2 meeting March 2-5 at the Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico:

2017 ASEE Southeastern Section Conference

2017 ASEE North Central Section Conference

2017 ASEE Indiana-Illinois Section Conference

2017 ASEE Gulf Southwest Section Conference
March 12–15, 2017
The University of Texas, Dallas, TX

2017 Middle Atlantic Section Conference
April 8–9, 2017
Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD




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