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December 2020


  • Students and Recent Graduates Lack Skills in New Technologies

Sponsored Content: NYU

  • Chemical Manufacturing Needs a Major Cleanup and a New NYU Tandon Initiative Has the Green Answer


  • Purdue Releases Annual Engineering Gift Guide for Kids
  • Iowa State’s SWE Goes Virtual for STEM Outreach


  • Churning Waters and Communal Gardens


  • Homegrown Problem Solvers


  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Virtual Workshops
  • Framework for P–12 Engineering Learning
  • Fellow Nominations
  • Student Video Contest
  • CoNECD Conference


By Lara Hilliard

The majority of recent graduates report that they are unprepared for emerging technologies, according to an ASEE survey. The Society’s research, conducted on behalf of its Corporate Member Council, aimed to assess skills gaps recent graduates face in the workplace.

Seventy to almost 90 percent of respondents expressed that they were inadequately prepared for such areas as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and additive manufacturing. The results are not surprising: Research in these fields is ongoing, and results and lessons learned must be blended into existing coursework to provide students with the most up-to-date information.

ASEE Corporate Member Council Survey for Skills Gaps in Recent Engineering Graduates was built on the NSF-funded ASEE Transforming Undergraduate Education in Engineering (TUEE) program, which is open to all current undergraduate students, current graduate students, and currently employed alumni who graduated within the last five years.

As a 2015 TUEE report emphasizes, “Technology used in the classroom should be kept current in order to keep pace with skills and approaches in demand beyond the classroom.”

Another area the survey identified as needing skills development was security knowledge, including in the areas of data and cybersecurity. Only 5 percent of respondents said they felt very prepared in this area, and only 18 percent stated they felt somewhat prepared.

The survey research has been published as an e-book and will be shared with registrants of the ASEE/CMC Industry 4.0 Workforce Summit webinar series. Please visit to learn more.


Sponsored Content

Chemical Manufacturing Needs a Major Cleanup and a New NYU Tandon Initiative Has the Green Answer

Chemical manufacturing, especially petrochemistry, is a major contributor of greenhouse gases, and consumer of fossil fuels. What if we could produce everything from plastic buttons and bottles to antifreeze and vinyl siding with clean, renewable energy sources?

A team at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering is bringing this vision to life through a multi-institution collaboration, Decarbonizing Chemical Manufacturing Using Sustainable Electrification (DC-MUSE), that is creating systems that swap CO2-producing fossil fuel reactions for clean electrochemistry sparked by energy sources like wind and solar.

The ultimate goal is to devise technologies making it feasible to retrofit existing chemical plants with electrolytic systems producing storable chemical energy, eliminating the need for fossil fuel-based thermal reactions.

DC-MUSE team member Miguel Modestino, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, who devised a process using electrochemistry to synthesize Nylon precursor Adiponitrile, recently partnered with Yury Dvorkin, professor of electrical and computer engineering, on a process design that produces and stores energy as hydrogen and links to the electric grid in a manner optimized for the use of renewable power.

“In principle, you can imagine chemical plants acting as energy storage reservoirs, but at the same time producing chemical products,” explained Modestino. “You can thus decarbonize the industry in a way that is both economic and functions well with the dynamics of a renewable-driven grid.”

Andre Taylor, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and director of DC-MUSE, noting Europe and China’s aggressive carbon-neutral targets said, “Such policies place 12% of all US exports — around $220 billion —  in jeopardy if the US chemical industry is not decarbonized.”

It all adds up to a metamorphosis of an industry that touches 70,000 products that we use every day.


Image Courtesy of Purdue University


Purdue University has published its seventh annual Engineering Gift Guide, created each year by the university’s INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering. This year’s guide includes 56 games, toys, puzzles, and books aimed at kids aged 10 months to 18 years. The guide supports INSPIRE’s mission, explains the institute’s executive director, engineering education professor Tamara Moore. “It strives to encourage kids to think about engineering and develop their skills [and gives] parents and educators a platform to turn to when looking for a legitimate and engaging engineering toy.” Undergraduates helped select the items included. Companies whose items are chosen receive a seal from INSPIRE that can be added to their packaging. The guide also includes links to purchase the gifts. The top 10 selections for the 2020 guide include the book The Language of the Universe: A Visual Exploration of Mathematics, the Design and Drill Space Circuits toy, and WordStruct, a 3D game.



Iowa State University’s Society of Women Engineers has for years run a K–12 STEM outreach program. Members would either head to local schools for STEM nights or host outreach events on campus. Two of SWE’s biggest events were hosting a Girls Learning and Exploring Engineering program for grades K–5 and a Girls Discovering Engineering program for 5th through 8th graders. But because of COVID-19 restrictions, those in-person events were canceled. So the SWE team switched gears and began producing step-by-step YouTube videos for at-home projects. They will continue to post videos until it’s again safe to do live gigs. The group says filming the videos required members to be creative and come up with projects that could be done inexpensively with typical household items. The projects include marshmallow towers, blood models (using corn syrup, red hot candies, and tiny marshmallows), and static-electricity butterflies (using tissue paper and a balloon).

The SWE team also launched a new virtual outreach program called SWENext last spring at four high schools: three in the Ames, Iowa, area and one in Australia. Members meet with the high-school students online every few weeks, with a focus on technical efforts such as designing in SOLIDWORKS or engaging in a design project with the national SWE organization.





With little control over students’ learning environments, educators can still promote growth in challenging times.

By Debbie Chachra

In July 2019, I visited hydroelectric power sites above and downstream from Niagara Falls, where the Niagara River flows fast but smoothly. Calm and wide under the summer sun, the blue-green waters gave little hint of the thunderous drop that lay in between.

I thought about that trip during the spring. Before the pandemic, we’d been in a steady state, and it seems likely that one day we will be again, however different. Currently, though, we are in the turbulent transition. And as the saying goes, we might all be in the same storm—or waterfall—but we are not all in the same boat. The racial, social, and economic disparities in the United States have long been documented, and the differential effects of the public health crisis are tragically clear.

In 1989, Ursula Franklin, professor emerita from the University of Toronto’s engineering school, discussed two models of education in a lecture series broadcast across Canada. In the production model, students undergo a predetermined series of experiences and quality-control measures to become a defined “product.” But, she reminded listeners, this is not the same as learning, which depends on an environment that supports growth. Educators are gardeners, doing our best to provide good growing conditions, appropriate to our charges and the environment, even if we cannot control the weather.

If ever there was a moment to internalize that lesson, it’s now, when our students’ experiences are widely varied. Incoming first-year students may have had their high school education abruptly ended in March. They may have been doing self-paced work, smoothly transitioned to classes online, or taken advanced courses all summer while safe at home. With public health concerns reshaping this academic year, these differences are ongoing. While the barriers to entry are significant, in-person learning, particularly living together on campus, does equalize access. Engagement with remote learning depends heavily on having secure housing and reliable high-speed Internet. It is more challenging for students with limited private space or caregiving responsibilities, precarious finances, or illness, to say nothing of the profound grief of losing a loved one. While these factors might affect any of our students (and many of us as educators), these are precisely the existing disparities that the pandemic is exacerbating—with a compounding effect on educational access.

Now is the moment to tend our gardens, as institutions and as educators. This heightened awareness that our students are all having very different experiences is our reminder to remain open and compassionate. That means providing as much deadline flexibility as possible. It also means leaning heavily on a language of expectations rather than requirements. For example, I ask my students to leave their cameras on during online class sessions, so we can all see and respond to one another, but I also make clear that I understand they may need to turn them off occasionally and we build in no-camera breaks to combat videoconferencing fatigue.

All of us are responding to heightened levels of uncertainty in our lives, including being aware that any change in the public health circumstances could upend our fragile equilibrium. To avoid adding to the unpredictability, we must be clear and thoughtful about scaffolding student learning experiences, whether by sharing a detailed running order for each class session or providing a full set of intermediate stepping stones for larger projects.

Our students need the opportunity to bloom as individuals but also to be part of strong, sustaining ecosystems of learners, which can be a challenge online. While that certainly entails looking beyond videoconferencing, a communal learning environment can be as simple as a shared text document to which everyone can contribute simultaneously. Experimenting with a diversity of tools and approaches for collective learning often means iteratively codesigning learning experiences for students on the fly, inviting them to provide feedback, and updating as needed. They will be learning from how we do things as well as from what we do.

Almost everything about this academic year feels new and unfamiliar, but the values that shape what we do in response are familiar ones: a commitment to growth, community, resilience, and experimentation. While there is no more “business as usual,” these principles can help us think about how to be better than usual, both now and in our new steady state—whether it turns out to be smooth and swift-flowing or a long stretch of whitewater.


Debbie Chachra is a professor of engineering at Olin College.



An innovative science-learning course uses sustainable development goals to engage students in community-based design challenges.

By Jenna L. Mueller

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly’s 193 member states unanimously adopted a blueprint for action aimed at addressing many of the contributors to inequality. Known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 17 interconnected initiatives tackle a broad array of challenges, from eradicating poverty to improving health, increasing access to quality education, promoting gender equality, ensuring affordable and clean energy, and revitalizing global partnerships. This vision for transformative change can guide our response to the deepening inequality seen around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there is no one formula or approach to achieve the SDGs, meeting them will require interdisciplinary problem solvers who have the confidence and skills to work within and outside their communities. Engineering design is widely recognized as a field that can generate breakthrough innovations for complex problems, such as those described in the SDGs. Integrating them into curricula thus affords a model for transforming STEM education and broadening participation beyond a few select students. We need to reach learners whose communities cannot offer this type of problem-based instruction—and which are facing the many challenges enumerated in the SDGs.

We created a program called Ignite to teach engineering design to a global community of students. The initial module specifically targeted issues associated with energy poverty in low-income communities. Approximately 2.8 billion people worldwide live without electricity. Energy poverty also disproportionately affects women and girls, primarily due to their larger share of family and household responsibilities. Ignite started in 2014 with the development of a course at Duke University to teach students how to build a flashlight that could be used to perform a variety of tasks, including enabling someone to study at night. The success of the program led to a framework of combining community problems, design thinking, and basic engineering solutions to democratize STEM education to students who live and learn in environments with many constraints. This framework, which we have applied in three countries, also leverages near-peer mentoring in which college students create and teach the curricula in these settings as a service-learning contribution.

To assess the impact of the Ignite program, we recorded the number of students who enrolled in our service-learning course at Duke, the number of student leaders who implemented the educational curriculum in the international community partner sites, and some basic demographic information, including the proportions of male and female students and of engineering and non-engineering majors. We also conducted a series of interviews or focus groups with both our undergraduate and the international students to further evaluate impact.

Since 2014, 110 Duke students have taken our course and 22 of them traveled internationally, collectively teaching 275 students in Kenya, India, and Guatemala. Female students comprised 78 percent of the Duke students who enrolled in our course and 95 percent of the student leaders. Interestingly, 35 percent of the students who took the course and 64 percent of the student leaders were non-engineering majors. The international students who participated in the Ignite program have been predominantly female students between the ages of 14 to 24. Students in Kenya formed an engineering club and taught the curriculum to an additional 52 peers, enabling the curriculum to be sustainable through peer-to-peer instruction. In India, mothers of middle- and elementary-school students participated in Ignite, demonstrating that this program can also be used in adult education. The Guatemalan program, which was geared toward middle- and high-school students, included a component related to student career goals. Ignite is now being scaled up across Guatemala by a foundation in Guatemala City called FUNDEGUA.

The Ignite program continues to grow, change, and expand as engineering design becomes tangible to different communities. The growth of the program and its positive outcomes shed light on the merits of engineering design education for all, particularly those directly impacted by challenges that the SDGs seek to address.


Jenna L. Mueller is an assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Maryland–College Park. This article was excerpted from “Using Human-Centered Design to Connect Engineering Concepts to Sustainable Development Goals,” which appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Advances in Engineering Education.


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The ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (CDEI) hosts a virtual workshop series, Focus Fridays, tailored to build the community’s DEI toolkit. The series is held on Fridays from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. If you’re interested in exploring previous sessions, take a few moments to subscribe to the CDEI YouTube channel. Past topics have focused on addressing microaggressions, promoting student wellness, and teaching in a culturally responsive manner during COVID. The Commission is accepting proposals for the virtual workshop series on an ongoing basis. If you are interested in facilitating an interactive workshop (panels, community gatherings, brainstorming sessions, “roundtables,” research-sharing, professional-development sessions, etc.), submit a proposal to the virtual workshop series.



ASEE and the Advancing Excellence in P–12 Engineering Education (AE3) research collaborative recently created a Framework for P–12 Engineering Learning. The framework provides practical guidance by identifying common P–12 engineering learning goals that all students should reach to become engineering literate. The document will add structure and coherence to the P–12 engineering community by serving as a foundation for the development of any and all engineering programs in schools, informing state and national standards-setting efforts and providing the research community with a common “starting point” to better investigate and understand P–12 engineering learning. Read more.



The grade of ASEE Fellow Member is one of unusual professional distinction. The Board of Directors confers it upon members with outstanding qualifications and experience in engineering or engineering technology education, or an allied field. Special attention is given to an individual's contributions within ASEE. 

Nominees must be ASEE members and must have been a member of the Society in any grade for at least 10 consecutive years. The deadline for nominees to submit a complete nomination and for references to submit their letters of recommendation is February 4 at 11:59 PM, ET.

For more information on the online nomination process, visit ASEE's Fellow Member nomination page. Please log on to your ASEE homepage and click Award Nominations on the landing page to begin the process.

For more information, email ASEE Membership Director Tim Manicom.



ASEE and partner EngineeringCAS are looking for engineering and engineering technology students to create videos on Adapting to the Virtual World. Tell us how you’ve adapted to the virtual world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Registration is now open and will remain so until January 31, 2021. First place receives $3,000, second place receives $1,500, and third place receives $500. See last year's winners.



Registration is now open for the CoNECD conference. The April 2020 in-person conference is now a virtual conference taking place January 24–28, 2021.

CoNECD (pronounced “connected”) provides a forum for exploring research and practices enhancing diversity and inclusion of all underrepresented populations in the engineering and computing professions. Registration is $175.



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