ASEE Connections

November 2015




In This Issue: Products & Programs

SAE International
Learn more about the Spotlight on Design applied engineering video series

Rigol Technologiesl
Learn about our RF Portfolio for Education and the Advanced Education Branch

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



Women’s representation in bachelor’s degree engineering programs grew in almost all disciplines between 2005 and 2014. The highest increases in the proportion of women were observed in environmental (9 percentage points), architectural (7 percentage points), biological and agricultural (6 percentage points), general (6 percentage points), and biomedical (5 percentage points) engineering disciplines. The decade-long trends also show that the disciplines with the highest proportions of women in 2005 continued to improve the group’s representation. This means that the relative ranking of the disciplines based on the representation of women remained more or less unchanged throughout the past decade. The top ten disciplines of choice for women remain environmental, biomedical, biological and agricultural, chemical, industrial, architectural, metallurgical and materials, civil and environmental, engineering management, and general engineering.






The H-1B visa program’s goal is to help U.S. companies — particularly tech companies — hire foreign professionals with special skills not easily found among American workers. The federal government limits the three-year work visas to just 85,000 a year, and 20,000 of those are set aside for foreign students who recently earned an advanced degree. But a New York Times front page story earlier this month charged that a handful of outsourcing companies have figured out how to game the system by flooding the application process with candidates, mainly from India — a maneuver that flouts the law’s intent but is not illegal. The companies then contract out these new employees to American firms, a process that can cost U.S. workers their jobs. “The H-1Bs are actually pushing jobs offshore,” Ron Hira, an electrical engineer and associate professor of public policy at Howard University, told the newspaper. The story was based in part on Hira’s research. Once applications exceed the annual quota, the immigration service uses a lottery to select recipients. This year, the Times reports, within seven days after the application process opened, 233,000 applications were received. Of the 20 companies that won the most H-1B visas in 2014, 13 were outsourcing companies, the story says. The Times says the top five outsourcing companies submitted as many as 55,000 applications, and one company, TCS, prepared 14,000 and won 5,650 of them. Overall, the top 20 companies grabbed 32,000 visas last year, slightly more than half of the non-student H-1Bs available. Individuals can submit only one application, but there is no limit on how many a company can prepare. The immigration service told the Times the selection process is “completely random.” The story adds that Congress has mainly opted to overlook the issue.



The Federal Communications Commission’s new Internet “Net Neutrality” rules reclassify broadband services so that the agency can regulate them as if they were traditional voice telephone services. The goal of Net Neutrality is for the FCC to ensure that Internet service providers treat all Web traffic equally, so that small, money-squeezed content providers can compete fairly with large multinationals. Many Republican lawmakers hate the ruling and were hoping to attach a rider to an upcoming omnibus spending bill to limit the FCC’s authority. But The Hill newspaper quotes Sen. John Thune, the GOP chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, saying that’s unlikely to happen because it would be too controversial. He would love to do it, he told The Hill, but supporters of a rider don’t have the votes to override an almost certain veto by President Obama. The White House and Congressional leaders hashed out a budget framework last month, but Congress must still pass the omnibus spending bill by Dec. 11 to keep the government operating.





Imagine having access to the engineers working on new, transformational technologies, watching them demonstrate and describe how they achieved unique solutions – solutions that you can apply to your own projects?

Through expert interviews and real-life case studies, our Spotlight on Design™ applied engineering video series takes viewers inside the labs, research centers, and factories where history is being written by innovative teams developing cutting-edge technologies for the automotive, aerospace and commercial vehicle industries.

We went right to the source to film these high-quality episodes, covering automated driving, counterfeit electronic parts, composite materials, sensors and more. Viewers will learn how design engineers are improving product quality, performance and reliability, increasing vehicle safety, reducing costs, achieving regulatory compliance while responding to the demands of consumers.

Spotlight on Design brings you directly to the innovators and game changers in the industry. Visit to view the current season’s episodes. New episodes for the 2016 season are coming soon!

Find out how you can bring a subscription to this essential resource to your university, contact Terry Kitchen at or call 1.888.875.3976



A Nuisance No Longer

Students’ Smartphones can Enliven and Enlighten an Engineering Classroom

By Chris Rogers

The smartphone can be a major distraction, but it is in the classroom whether we want it or not. Every student has one, even in our partner K-12 schools, where most pupils qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. I learned this while speaking to elementary students in a summer program at the Tufts veterinary school. To differentiate engineering from science, I asked them to define each, working in teams of two or three. One student delivered an impressively detailed definition with great confidence. I must have looked surprised, because he happily raised his phone. For his generation, that’s where facts and definitions are found.

My goal is always to turn the classroom into a space where students find different solutions to the same problems, and thereby teach each other – and me. I’ve found the smartphone to be an invaluable tool. It has some amazing features, allowing anyone to find any fact – and evidence to support that fact – in seconds. A phone can let students share their work and ideas, learn from experts, interact in forums, and even act as a clicker (for example It can also be a calculator or a robot controller.

In a heat transfer class, students working together (at tables) can quickly look up material properties, estimate the fin efficiencies for various materials and geometries, and then compare across the classroom, spawning a conversation around which materials make good fins and which ones do not. Reading p-v plots in thermodynamics or even looking at the output of simulations in fluids can now be done quickly and easily.

The phone’s camera opens up the world of image processing and sensing. In high school physics, students have used their phones to video a ball bouncing and then used software (like the Vernier physics video app) to track the motion of the ball and compare it with known models. In teaching heat transfer last semester, I brought in the new FLIR infrared camera case for the iPhone ( The images catalyzed some excellent discussions as the students argued about which parts of the wall had more insulation, where the body lost most of its heat, and how different materials could feel colder or hotter and yet be the same temperature. Just by changing the lens through which they view the world, we can get them to eagerly discuss class content or appreciate and validate mathematical models.

As a robot-controller, the smartphone brings a number of advantages to robot design – from a touch screen user interface, to image processing, to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (and cellular) connection. One can even get rough positioning from the phone’s GPS hardware. The FIRST robotic competitions ( are starting this year with a cellphone at the center of their FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) competition. Most smartphones have built-in accelerometers, audio input and output channels, and some form of light sensor and buzzing motor, all of which can be integrated into the robot design. There are a number of companies (Romo, Woo Wee, and others) that sell robotic attachments for phones, and the larger world of telerobotics often relies on phones or tablets for all communication.

The phone can make the most difference in engineering education, though, as a documentation tool. Understanding the process the student goes through to solve a problem or design a solution is often very difficult if you have only the final product. Projects like Build in Progress at MIT ( make it easy for students to document the progress of their work and get feedback from the cloud. Note-taking software, like Evernote, helps students share their progress and and get just-in-time feedback. One of my indicators of success in class is how many students take pictures or movies of their work, since that means they are sharing their learning with their friends.

Maybe someday students will use watches instead. But in the meantime, I enjoy finding ways of leveraging phones to get students to think like scientists and engineers: questioning, testing, and iterating.

Chris Rogers is a professor of mechanical engineering and co-director of the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts University.



Leap of Imagination

Design Heuristics Help Students Think Outside the Box and Devise Novel, More Diverse Solutions

By Julia Kramer, Shanna Daly, Seda Yilmaz, Colleen Seifert, and Richard Gonzalez

Innovations depend on creative-concept generation, but engineering students often struggle to come up with ideas. They typically proffer a handful and fixate either on their first idea or existing solutions. As a result, students explore only a narrow subset of possible solutions. Techniques to support concept generation include a tool called Design Heuristics, a collection of strategies for exploring variations in product designs ( The tool was developed through empirical studies of industrial and engineering product designers and has been shown in prior research to assist students in creating new and diverse concepts.

In this study, we explored how students developed their initial ideas into final designs within a team project. We investigated whether initial ideas created using Design Heuristics led to successful, practical outcomes. At the beginning of the semester, undergraduate mechanical engineering students in a design project course learned the Design Heuristics tool. Each student used the tool to generate concepts for a remote-controlled machine to compete in a final challenge. The students then worked in teams to develop their ideas into a final design, which they built using traditional machining materials and techniques. Data collected included the initial concepts generated by individual students, team designs presented at the midterm review, and final designs presented by the teams at the end-of-term competition.

The results show that Design Heuristics were used to develop 91 percent of the students’ initial concepts and 78 percent of the final team designs. These findings suggest that the student teams found Design Heuristics to be applicable and practical for generating usable concepts and developing final designs. In addition, we found that almost half the teams synthesized components of several independent ideas into their team designs, using one or more of their Design Heuristics-inspired concepts.

These findings suggest several guidelines for engineering education. Instructors can provide tools for generating ideas and encourage students to use these methods to explore more initial design concepts. Engineering educators can also encourage their students to use Design Heuristics at several subsequent points in their design processes, and to engage in multiple divergent and convergent concept-development cycles. Revisiting the Design Heuristics tool throughout the design process may also support improvements in concept development by student teams. In particular, concept synthesis – combining the best ideas into one concept – is important for maximizing the impact of creative initial concepts.

Instructors can implement these goals through the structures of their project deliverables. First, instructors may be able to alleviate their students’ tendency to settle on a concept too quickly by setting a minimum number of individual initial concepts, along with multiple initial team concepts. The Design Heuristics tool can be offered to help students reach this required number of concepts. Next, instructors could require student teams to demonstrate their concept development through divergent exploration, convergence, and synthesis throughout the design process. Requiring explicit documentation of these stages will help students learn to attend to concept development throughout their own developing design processes.

The assignment of appropriate deliverables must strike a balance between concept exploration and practical design outcomes. Our study offers support for Design Heuristics as a useful tool for encouraging students to consider a variety of ideas without sacrificing practical outcomes. As a result, students may learn to create practical and innovative design concepts for their projects.

Julia Kramer is a Ph.D. graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Shanna Daly is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan. Seda Yilmaz is an associate professor of industrial design at Iowa State University. Colleen Seifert and Richard Gonzalez are professors of psychology at the University of Michigan. This article is excerpted from “Investigating the Impacts of Design Heuristics on Idea Initiation and Development” in the September issue of Advances in Engineering Education. (Supported by NSF Grant 1140256.)





Job–hunting? Here are a few current openings:


1. Chair of Mechanical Engineering – 2 opportunities


2. Electrical Engineering – 14 opportunities


3. Mechanical Engineering – 9 opportunities


Visit here for details:







ASEE is now accepting Fellow Member nominations to be presented at the 2016 ASEE Annual Conference in New Orleans, June 26-29, 2016.

Qualifications for Fellow Grade are established by the ASEE bylaws. The Grade of Fellow is one of unusual professional distinction and is conferred by the Board of Directors upon an ASEE member with outstanding and extraordinary qualifications and experience in engineering or engineering technology education or an allied field, and who has made appropriate and important individual contributions. Special attention is given to an individual's contributions within ASEE.

You are encouraged to consider nominating one or more deserving colleagues for this honor. The deadline for Fellow Members nominations is Feb. 1, 2016.







ENTREPRENEURS: Engineers figure prominently among successful American entrepreneurs - particularly in high tech - but relatively few women want to take the risky plunge. Why is that? And what's being done to encourage more female entrepreneurs?

FARM: To feed a growing world population amid diminishing arable land, research engineers use big data, the Internet of Things, drones, satellites, and mobile computing to make better use of shrinking resources, especially water, while developing crops that can better withstand extreme weather.

Credit:Nicola Nittoli / Thinkstock

POLLING: Taking the public’s pulse is getting trickier. Unlisted cell phones, the reluctance of many young people to answer calls out of the blue, and a preference for texting over talking make conventional methods less reliable and led to electoral upsets in recent years. Is there an engineering solution?




Do you have a comment or suggestion for Connections?

Please let us know. Email us at: Thanks.

This Newsletter was sent to you by:

American Society for Engineering Education
1818 N Street, N.W.
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036


Managing Editor: Tom Grose
Information for Advertisers


To unsubscribe from this newsletter, please reply to with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line - please include the email address that you would like removed from the mailing list.


American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)

This email was sent to [email address suppressed]. If you are no longer interested you can unsubscribe instantly.