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ASEE Connections

February 2019




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By Daodao Wang

The number of engineering degrees obtained by under-represented groups has grown significantly over the past 10 years: by 98 percent, 37 percent, and 82 percent for Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees, respectively. The percentage drops for Master’s, due to a spike in total Master’s degrees in recent years, but has increased at Bachelor’s and Doctoral levels. For purposes of the graphics below, underrepresented groups (labeled URM) include African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Native Hawaians, Asian American females, and Caucasian females.

Figure 1. Engineering Degrees Awarded to Women and Minorities as a Percentage of Total Engineering Degrees, 2007 and 2017.

Figure 2. Number of Egineering Degrees Awarded to Women and Minorities vs. Total Number of Engineering Degrees, 2007 and 2017.



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During the 2016 presidential campaign, most Silicon Valley executives were strongly aligned with Democrat Hilary Clinton. Indeed, the party has long enjoyed a close relationship with the tech industry, which has also been a strong source of contributions. Many top executives have libertarian economic views, but overall, they lean left on social issues. But the 2020 election could be a tough one for the industry. Already, many announced and potential Democratic presidential candidates are talking about cracking down on the industry, The Hill newspaper reports. Announced candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wants to use antitrust laws to crack down on the biggest brands in tech, including Google, Facebook and Apple. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has also announced, has stressed issues like net neutrality and internet privacy, the paper says, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, another candidate, has been a critic of Amazon’s labor policies. The decline in Democratic enthusiasm for the industry began with the news that Russia used social media platforms to spread disinformation in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump. The relationship further suffered last year when it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a tech consulting firm with links to Trump’s campaign, had improperly gotten hold of Facebook data on millions of users without their knowledge or permission. The Hill says Silicon Valley can’t necessarily look to establish better relations with the GOP and Trump in 2020 if the Democrats desert it. Republican lawmakers have also become critics of the industry. Trump often claims social media companies are biased against conservatives, and has threatened antitrust investigations into Amazon and Google.



In 2017, President Trump announced his intention to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord, which looks to cut emissions of greenhouse gases quickly enough to keep global warming in check. In response, a coalition of governors—mainly from the East and West coasts—formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, which vowed to meet the accord’s goals. This month, the newly-elected Democratic governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers, joined the coalition, the Washington Post reports. He’s one of four frirst-term governors, all Democrats, to make the move. The other three are Gretchen Whitmer, of Michigan, Michelle Lujan Grisham, of New Mexico, and J.B. Pritzker, of Illinois. The 21-member bipartisan alliance now has more of a reach into the heartland. The Post notes that scientists are increasingly warning that climate change will affect the country’s interior, not just its coasts. A recent government study found that increases in humidity have damaged soil and helped breed pests, while the southwest is facing more and longer droughts because of the warming climate. The Paris treaty’s goal is to cut emissions by at least 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.





As a heat sensor, microscope, telescope, or device for tracking faces, a camera becomes a versatile teaching tool.

By Chris Rogers

Students are confident using a camera, making it an ideal classroom tool. They use their phone cameras to exchange notes, grab a snapshot of the mathematical derivation on the board, film the steps the teacher is taking on the computer, grab a contact from someone else’s phone, or just share with their friends what they are doing. Documentation stations within the classroom get students to record not only their final product but also the journey they took to get there—one of the toughest things to measure as a teacher. Add software, and a camera becomes even more convenient. My latest use: Put whiteboard material on your laptop (www.thinkboardx.com) so you can take notes with a pen, and then snap an image with Rocketbook software (www.getrocketbook.com). It gets properly filed away (digitally) before you erase it and start again. You’re effectively making digital notes with an old-fashioned pen, with no need to open your computer and get sidetracked.

Yet what makes the camera an impressive and versatile teaching tool for engineering is its capability as a sensor. And here this ubiquitous device has yet to make a big dent in the classroom. Today’s cameras can be used as sensors of much more than visible light. For example, Flir cameras (www.flir.com) can get students of all ages discussing, questioning, and analyzing heat transfer on themselves, their peers, or their environment. Edgertronic cameras (www.edgertronic.com) allow students to see in slow motion at an affordable price—as slow as 25,000 frames a second. Microscopes with cameras open up the world of the very small, and telescopes reveal the world of the very big. Cameras are now being combined with intelligence to provide augmented-reality images that allow you to even “see the unseen”: from Wi-Fi packets being sent between a computer and a router, to what a robot is thinking.

A decade ago, cameras that could think as well as see (embedded processors) were prohibitively expensive, but advances in microprocessors and machine learning have dramatically lowered their price. Now a PiZero (www.raspberrypi.org) with camera costs under $50. With the growth of cloud intelligence, the processor does not need to be particularly powerful; all it needs is a Wi-Fi connection to one of many machine-learning cloud services.

One particular favorite of mine is the OpenMV camera (www.openmv.io)—a $70 camera that runs micro-python and has an impressive array of capabilities (from reading QRCodes to optical flow, to tracking faces, to machine learning). For a little more money, you can add a Wi-Fi board or a screen or a servomotor controller, although my students have instead connected it to everything from the NI myRIO to LEGO hardware to develop robots with vision. For instance, with just a few lines of code, one can develop a LEGO-based dice thrower and have it run overnight determining if the dice are fair or not. Having the camera mounted on a few servomotors and actively tracking a red ball (for physics class) or a human face (for robotics class) can be done fairly easily. We have played with developing smart trading cards (QR codes) that can be used to ”program“ a robot (present the robot with the sequence of actions you want it to do). And finally, my students are currently developing robots that play card games with young kids (tired of playing Uno?) using this little gem.

Someday, computers will probably be able to do what our brains now do easily, like identifying objects in images regardless of lighting conditions, or estimating relative distances and sizes of objects with enough accuracy that they can throw and catch. Students of all ages will be able to turn low-cost cameras into smart sensors that can measure everything from velocity to volume and communicate with the cloud or with robots.

They might also just snap a photo.


Chris Rogers is a professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University.






An innovative blended-learning approach aims to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set in all engineering students.

By Ronald S. Harichandran, Nadiye O. Erdil, Maria-Isabel Carnsciali, Jean Nocito-Gobel and Cheryl Quing

Many engineering colleges are attempting to impart entrepreneurial skills to their students. They use a variety of approaches, including having students take business-oriented courses, encouraging students to participate in extracurricular activities such as start-up or innovation competitions, and working with start-ups in business incubators. Significant constraints within most engineering programs are already-packed curricula and limited elective credits that can be applied toward courses in business or entrepreneurship. Having to take credits beyond program requirements limits the number of students taking entrepreneurship courses. Small colleges are particularly challenged by not having enough faculty with expertise in entrepreneurship. To overcome these constraints and difficulties, the University of New Haven created an ambitious model that enables all students to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set without having to take courses beyond those required for graduation. The model is transferable to other institutions and scalable to large numbers of students.

We developed 18 short e-learning modules on a variety of topics related to entrepreneurial thinking and integrated them into regular courses that students take over four years of engineering and computer science programs. The modules were designed to address entrepreneurial-minded learning outcomes and complementary skills. Content experts developed each module guided by a team of reviewers within the Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS). Each consists of text, short videos, interactive exercises, quizzes, and a final comprehensive test.

Students use the e-learning modules outside of class. For effective integration, instructors need to provide a contextual activity—for example, they might tailor a course project or assignment so that students apply what they learned to discipline-specific problems. Each module typically takes four to seven hours to complete, including the contextual activity, which does add more work to the curriculum. However, four to seven hours of additional work can be easily absorbed within a course spanning a semester. The additional knowledge learned and mind-set developed will give students a distinct advantage in today’s work environment. Our approach has the following advantages:

1. Students can learn entrepreneurial topics without taking extra courses or credits.
2. Faculty do not need to be experts in the entrepreneurial topics. They only need to be familiar with the content and develop a contextual activity, through which students apply what they learn.
3. The contextual activity can be aligned with the regular content of the course, and therefore students learn to apply entrepreneurial concepts to solve problems related to the course and specific to their discipline.
4. Faculty do not need to give up class time dedicated to teaching technical topics since students learn the entrepreneurial topics outside of class.
5. The entrepreneurial concepts delivered to students in different sections of a course are identical and not instructor dependent.
6. Because the modules are integrated into regular courses, an entrepreneurial mi
nd-set can be developed in every student over the duration of his or her undergraduate program.

Fourteen modules have been integrated into courses within seven engineering and computer science programs at the University of New Haven, and the remaining four will be integrated over the coming year. Through a mini-grant program administered over the past three years, about 75 faculty at 54 other universities and colleges in the U.S. have deployed our modules in their courses. They were exported from Blackboard and imported into a variety of LMS’s at other institutions, including Canvas, Desire2Learn, Sakai, iLearn, and Moodle.

Greater detail on the e-learning modules and their integration into engineering and computer science courses is provided in the paper entitled ”Developing an Entrepreneurial Mind-set in Engineering Students Using Integrated E-Learning Modules“ published in Advances in Engineering Education. The e-learning modules are available for download from https://engineeringunleashed.com/.


All authors are from the University of New Haven. Ronald Harichandran is dean of the Tagliatela College of Engineering. Nadiye Erdil is an assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering. Maria-Isabel Carnasciali is chair of the department of engineering and applied science education and an associate professor of mechanical engineering. Jean Nocito-Gobel is a professor of civil and environmental engineering. Cheryl Qing Li is an associate professor of mechanical engineering.





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COVER: INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS—Recent federal policies and rhetoric are discouraging graduate-school applicants from overseas, threatening revenue and research at engineering colleges.

FEATURE: SANITATION—Engineers tackle the global problem of inadequate sanitation.

FEATURE: CREDENTIALS—How universities are responding to students’ need for a variety of new skills qualifications.





Learn the best practices of successful department chairs on June 16th at the 2019 Chairs Conclave in Tampa, FL. The Chairs Conclave is an exclusive forum for engineering and engineering technology department chairs to exchange ideas and experiences, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. Learn more and register today—seating is limited—at https://chairsconclave.asee.org.


Receive the tools and training needed to prepare and deliver implicit bias workshops at your institution with the new train-the-trainer program—Training for Action: Challenging Implicit Bias. This three-part program will commence with a full-day workshop on June 15th in conjunction with the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference. The application period opens February 20. Learn more: https://goo.gl/NSQMwF




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