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February 2021


  • How Job-Ready Are Our Graduates?

Sponsored Content: NCEES

  • 2021 NCEES Engineering Education Award


  • Design Challenges Offer Chemical Engineering Students Real-World Lessons


  • Building a Digital Community of Learners


  • Teamwork Makes the Ethics Work


  • What’s On Tap in the March + April 2021 Issue of Prism?


  • Apps Aim to Increase Awareness of Faculty Diversity Issues
  • Virtual Distinguished Lecture: Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist
  • McGraw Research Award Recipients Announced
  • Six ASEE Members Elected to the NAE
  • Upcoming Webinar: The Intersection of P–12 STEM Education and Racial Equity


Compiled by Lara Hilliard

Engineers and technologists are vital to U.S. enterprise and national security. Yet industry’s demand continues to outstrip supply. A 2017 National Academies consensus study, for example, estimated that the shortfall in skilled technical workers would total 3.4 million by 2022. The ASEE Corporate Member Council Survey for Skills Gaps in Recent Engineering Graduates sought to measure workforce preparation. Built on ASEE’s NSF-funded Transforming Undergraduate Education in Engineering (TUEE) project, the study was open to all current engineering undergraduates, graduate students, and employed alumni who graduated within the last five years.

Several trends stand out. An overwhelming majority of respondents felt very or somewhat prepared in two key areas sought by employers: a zest for continuous learning (93 percent) and the ability to communicate effectively (89 percent). By contrast, just 41 percent felt very or somewhat prepared for project management—and nearly half had little or no preparation. This 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 register.



Sponsored Content

2021 NCEES Engineering Education Award

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing professional licensure for engineers and surveyors.

The NCEES Engineering Education Award recognizes college engineering programs for engaging their students in collaborative projects with licensed professional engineers. It was established to promote understanding of the value of licensure and to encourage partnerships between the engineering profession and education.

Due to the cancellation of the 2020 competition, NCEES will be accepting those entries for the 2021 competition cycle. If a program completed a project in 2020, it can be entered for a chance to win one of the 2021 cash awards. Please consider entering projects that integrate professional practice and education.

At the discretion of the award jury, up to eight cash awards are presented each year. EAC/ABET-accredited programs from all engineering disciplines are invited to compete for the $25,000 grand prize and seven $10,000 prizes. The winning engineering departments/colleges decide how to best use the cash award. NCEES encourages the winners to use the funds for the advancement of projects connecting professional practice and education.

 “The Engineering Education Award is a great program,“ said NCEES Engineering Education Award juror Steven Barrett, Ph.D., P.E. “It’s an outstanding method that celebrates engineering student design and collaboration with professional engineers.”

Competition details
The NCEES Engineering Education Award categories are as follows:

• International projects
• Community enhancement projects
• Public welfare and health services/care projects
• Energy and sustainability projects
• Device/design/prototype projects
• Freshman/sophomore design projects
• Innovation projects

Grand prize: $25,000
Up to seven awards: $10,000 each

Projects must be in progress by March 15, 2021. The entry deadline is May 17, 2021. Learn about NCEES Engineering Education Award project ideas, evaluation criteria, and more at



At the University of New Mexico, the chemical and biological engineering department has successfully studded its undergraduate core curriculum with a variety of design challenges that build on one another. The goal: help students better grasp why chemical engineering is a much-needed discipline by having them solve real-world problems on both the local and global level, and give them the chance to develop the skills they’ll need for similar challenges in their careers. In a paper presented at ASEE’s Gulf Southwest Section Conference last April, department members outlined the kinds of design projects the students work on, which incorporate community, industrial, research, or entrepreneurial aspects. The projects begin in students’ freshman year and continue into some graduate-level courses and electives.

In the first-year introductory course, students make presentation pitches, conduct research, write reports, and perform lab work arranged around three projects. One project focuses on remediating water contamination caused by acids draining from abandoned mines, a common problem in New Mexico. Students develop a treatment, prevention, and emergency response protocol for rural communities.

Second-year courses in chemical process calculations and thermodynamics emphasize teamwork and bolstering students’ technical skills, while introducing more theory, optimization research, and decision-making. For instance, in one project lasting seven weeks, teams of students must develop a solution to a widespread global problem using thermodynamics principles. Students submit a technical report with a bibliography, give a final presentation, and receive a group evaluation.

Third-year challenges embedded within transport phenomena and mass transfer courses incorporate more chemical engineering theory and conceptual understanding in developing products and solutions to real-life problems. In one project, student teams work to develop a separations-based consumer product, such as non-alcoholic beer. Students write memos, perform simulations using ASPEN (chemical process simulation software), write a short technical report, and make a sales-pitch video for their product.

Design challenges in 500-level and elective courses build on the experience students gained in previous challenges and ask them to solve a global health problem by developing a product or idea. Students use a maker space for prototyping, 3D printing, welding, woodworking, and laser etching.

The authors conclude that not only are the projects accomplishing their goals, but also “students most of all develop a sense of the breadth of chemical engineering applications and the numerous possibilities for chemical engineering careers.”    




The pandemic offers an opportunity to try out new tools to bring students together and explore potential benefits for the return of in-person teaching.

By Chris Rogers

Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve learned a lot about how to educate online. As with all good experiments, some results have been surprisingly positive, while others have been … not so. In my own case, I have been working with my students to test out all sorts of different strategies—from online tools to working with Arduino to sending custom electronics kits to 400 homes or dorms. Except for missing the weekly Ultimate Frisbee game, I have been surprised and impressed at how well education is proceeding, with students able to drive their own learning and leverage the new digital tools for help.

Most of my efforts have focused on developing a sense of community and peer assistance among the students, an approach that had paid off in previous in-person environments with student groups becoming self-sufficient, helping each other solve the posed engineering problems. But now, how do you get the same sharing, curiosity, peer support, and idea transfer virtually as when 20 students are working together in a big room?

Like most people, we started with Slack. As a faculty member, I have always preferred this tool to e-mail because there is no spam. While Slack worked fairly well, it became far more powerful when we integrated Google Calendar. Since students are now all over the world, time zone confusion resulted in a few missed meetings and deadlines prior to the calendar alerts. With the integration, students can plan out their day, knowing when they can get help or when they can participate in activities that the “fun committee” dreamt up. While we also integrated other apps such as Zoom and Asana, the calendar was the most transformational addition (with a distant second ensuring everyone put their Zoom address in their profile to make it easier to connect).

A second surprise occurred in our annual summer research program (with about 30 students, all-virtual). We decided to offer a summer seminar series. Instead of the usual 50-minute talks, we opted for five minutes of introduction, 15 minutes of presentation, and 30 minutes of discussion. In their introductions, the speakers talked about their career journeys and what they would want to do differently next time. It was interesting to see the different paths people took to the engineering jobs they currently held (one taught English before becoming an engineer, another Gaelic literature). There were two surprises with the talks: The first was how willing everyone was to Zoom for an hour at lunch, giving us a huge diversity in speakers and topics—from SpaceX launches to issues of racial equity to the beginnings of AI at Google. The second was how popular they were: By the end, the students were requesting three talks a week. With participants’ various interests, the talks supplied content for more online student discussions, forming that community.

Another positive addition was daily update videos. After students complained that they knew nothing about their peers’ projects, we started each morning with a single three-minute movie from one of the groups (each group had to make a movie every other week). These videos worked very well for sharing both ideas and industrial sponsor updates.

To date, my students and I have tried a few dozen different software packages, from Asana to Teams, with mixed reviews. Miro (a digital sticky note board) had the greatest split in votes, with some loving it and others finding it frustrating. Gather, a video-sharing world you can design, showed great potential for enabling the feel of wandering down the hallway and talking with someone but also brought the odd feeling of eavesdropping when you passed different conversations.

The most successful poster session was when we did “the Zoom Dance” for sponsors over the summer. Each industrial sponsor was put in a breakout room and the students migrated from room to room every 10 minutes to show off their work. The sponsors appreciated not having to move for a few reasons: 1) they did not have to be the ones to apologetically leave a discussion, 2) they did not have to worry about where they should go, and 3) they did not have to worry about dealing with any Zoom issues as they moved.

We have tried many other tools: software, portfolios, reflections, and surveys—with variable success—but all helped build a strong community, as students became codesigners. It is exciting to see how learning is changing to better leverage the digital world, and I plan on retaining most of these tools when we are all together again. But I am most excited to bring back the in-person Frisbee games.


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



Most classroom discussions of engineering ethics take place with individual students and in the context of disasters. But this method doesn’t reflect real-world scenarios.

By Magdalena G. Grohman, Nicholas Gans, Eun Ah Lee, Marco Tacca, and Matthew J. Brown

Engineers play a critical role in solving complex social and environmental issues. In response, the focus of engineering ethics is shifting from merely preventing harm to also ensuring social responsibility. A new paradigm for students’ engineering education integrates strong technical knowledge with real-world economic, ethical, social, and environmental concerns. Team-based projects and multidisciplinary applications inspire collaboration with classmates. In contrast, engineering ethics education still mostly focuses on decisions by individual engineers and disaster case studies. It does not reflect the type of everyday decisions that practicing engineers must make and neglects the fact that most engineers work on teams. This led us to pose the research question: How are decisions about ethical and social issues made in teams of engineers, rather than by lone individuals?

Focusing on safety, disaster prevention, and intellectual property in engineering ethics curricula leaves little time for discussing social impacts of engineering and technology. Additionally, ethics training comprises a small portion of engineering education. In engineering practice, time pressures and competing training needs are often resolved through division of labor, collaboration, and reliance on experts with complementary expertise. This led us to our second research question: Can having a team member with the specific responsibility for, and special training in, engineering ethics influence or alter the group’s decision-making and, if so, how?

To answer these questions, we launched a three-year ethnographic study of ethical reflection in undergraduate and graduate engineering students. Three groups of students participated in our study: teams of engineering students working on their senior design projects; teams of philosophy of science and technology students trained in facilitating ethics discussions; and members of engineering labs. We observed teams discussing the ethical issues surrounding their projects and collected a variety of ethnographic data. We also observed research labs and facilitated an ethics discussion among their members.

Our results demonstrated that, as teams of engineering students move along the design timeline, their focus shifts from awareness of the multifaceted nature of engineering and professional ethics to concentration on specific technical aspects of their projects. Moreover, our observations suggest that, without the presence of ethics advisers, the explicit understanding of engineering ethics shared by the student teams is rather narrow and limited to technical aspects of the design. For example, some teams declared that designing a safe product is their responsibility, but safe use of the product is users’ responsibility.

Students not only gain explicit understanding of engineering ethics through formal study but also bring to their education a broad range of implicit insights about social responsibility. This implicit understanding could serve as a potential resource for engineering ethics education and ethical practice. Ethics advisers embedded with engineering teams can guide members to see the broader social context or to consider diverse perspectives. This is not because the advisers in our study had some expertise in being ethical, nor were they morally superior individuals. Rather, they had specific training in engineering ethics and, more important, the role responsibility for raising ethical questions about the project. Just as engineering students are not yet fully trained and credentialed engineering experts, the ethics advisers in our study were not ethics experts; still, their interaction provides a valuable model for ethics advising.

We suggest a multistage approach to engineering ethics education. First, students need to be exposed to diverse perspectives regarding ethical and social issues in engineering and need more opportunities to discuss them. Second, students need to have practical learning experiences of ethical decision-making tied to their actual engineering work, not simply reviewing ethical decisions in separate settings focused on extreme cases. Finally, ethics advisers with specific role responsibilities should be involved in collaborative approaches to improve the reasoning of engineering teams in coursework or the lab. Working together, ethics advisers and engineers will surmount complex social and environmental issues.


Magdalena G. Grohman is associate director of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology at the University of Texas at Dallas, where Matthew J. Brown is the center’s director and Eun Ah Lee is a research associate. Nicholas Gans is division head of automation and intelligent systems at the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute. Marco Tacca is professor of instruction in electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas. This article is adapted from “Engineering Ethics as an Expert-Guided and Socially-Situated Activity” in the October 2020 issue of Advances in Engineering Education.


Job-hunting? Here are a few current openings:

1. Dean - 1 opportunity

2. Department Head - 1 opportunity

3. Mechanical Engineering - 4 opportunities

Visit here for details:



COVER PACKAGE: THE FUKUSHIMA DISASTER 10 YEARS LATER: ENGINEERING A RECOVERY—The reactor remains a heap of toxic rubble, and public opposition has stalled new nuclear plants, but Japan’s nuclear engineering education programs are attracting top talent as the country reaffirms its commitment to abandoning fossil fuels. Prism’s special cover package examines the novel technologies, clean-up efforts, and future directions emerging for Japan’s atomic energy industry 10 years after the devastating tsunami—and includes an exclusive interview with former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the Tokyo Institute of Technology graduate and patent attorney who led Japan during the disaster and now is among its most influential nuclear-power opponents.


FEATURE: SPRECHEN SIE ENGINEERING?—Clemson University rolls out a pilot program that combines mechanical engineering and German language courses.



ASEE recognizes that to optimize innovation and global competitiveness, the engineering community must actively encourage, support, engage, and advance a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. Currently, groups such as women, especially women of color, are underrepresented in the discipline.

The Society’s Engineering Deans Gender Equity (EDGE) Initiative is a three-year program funded by the National Science Foundation to provide tools, strategies, and resources to support deans in identifying and removing barriers that impede recruitment, retention, and advancement of women faculty from all backgrounds in engineering higher education. EDGE has released two apps focused on increasing deans’ awareness, knowledge, and action in supporting faculty and leaders’ gender diversity, equity, and inclusion.

With data drawn from ASEE’s annual Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology report, the apps’ two dashboards examine trends in the number of women in tenure-track/tenured faculty roles in colleges of engineering over the last two years. The Women Engineering Faculty dashboard allows faculty leaders and researchers to examine trends in tenure-track/tenured positions in engineering by region, institution type, Carnegie class, discipline, and faculty rank. The Underrepresented Minority Women Faculty dashboard displays data according to race/ethnicity by region, institution type, Carnegie class, discipline, and rank.



On February 24 from 2–3 P.M., E.T., the third lecture in ASEE’s virtual Distinguished Lecture Series will feature Michigan’s Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, who will discuss his experiences and lessons learned from a career spent in pursuit of equity and justice, sharing insights on how he harnesses technology to improve the lives of people across Michigan. Register now:



The Curtis W. McGraw Research Award is awarded annually by ASEE’s Engineering Research Council with the initial assistance of the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The award recognizes the significant achievements of early career researchers and educators, emphasizing early achievement, trajectory, and potential.

The recipient of the 2021 award in the non-Ph.D. granting program category is Luke Dosiek from Union College. The recipient of the 2021 award in the Ph.D. granting program category is Maryam Shanechi from the University of Southern California. Shanechi was selected from among five finalists. The other finalists, alphabetically, were Veronica Augustyn (North Carolina State University), Ranga Dias (University of Rochester), Umut Gurkan (Case Western Reserve University), and Elizabeth Nance (University of Washington).

Dosiek and Shanechi will be recognized at the annual business meeting of the ASEE Engineering Research Council at the start of its 2021 Research Leadership Institute, at 3 P.M. on March 9.


ASEE congratulates six Society members recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Election to the NAE, a nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership to the nation, is one of the highest professional distinctions an engineer can earn.

In total, NAE elected 106 new members and 23 international members. The group’s U.S. membership now totals 2,355, and it has 298 international members.

The ASEE members elected to the NAE are: 

Lance Collins
Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering, College of Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. For contributions to understanding turbulent processes, leadership in engineering, and contributions to the diversity of the profession.

Francis Doyle
John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor and Dean, Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. For insights into natural biological control systems and innovative engineering of diabetes control devices.

Charles Haas
LD Betz Professor of Environmental Engineering and Department Head, Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pa. For contributions to quantitative microbial risk assessment for drinking water quality and public health.

Louis Martin-Vega
Professor and Dean, College of Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh. For support of engineering and engineering education through industry-academic collaboration and opportunities for underrepresented groups. Dean Martin-Vega served as 2016–2017 ASEE President.

Theodore Rappaport
David Lee/Ernst Weber Chaired Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Tandon School of Engineering, New York University, Brooklyn. For contributions to the characterization of radio frequency propagation in millimeter wave bands for cellular communication networks.

Levi Thompson
Dean, College of Engineering, and Elizabeth Inez Kelley Professor, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Delaware, Newark. For advances in catalysis and energy storage, entrepreneurship, and academic leadership.


The DEI webinars of ASEE’s Educators’ Series seek to address systemic issues in PreK–12 STEM education and their impact on underrepresentation in STEM fields.

Join us for the upcoming webinar “Dissect and Dismantle: Challenges at the Intersection of P–12 STEM Education and Racial Equity.” The panel discussion will explore some of the challenges faced by students and teachers and discuss strategies for dismantling them that can lead to inclusive learning environments. The webinar will include current STEM teachers talking about their experiences as well as suggestions on strategies to make STEM subjects more accessible and inclusive, and ways to spark student interest and confidence.

Date: Wednesday, February 24, 6:30–7:45 P.M. E.T. Moderator: Geraldine Gooding, manager, P–12 Activities and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives. Register:


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