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ASEE Connections

June 2019





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By Joseph Roy

The federal government collects1 data on the educational attainment of full-time employed adults over age 25. This information can be used to learn the educational requirements of various occupations and how they change over time. In 2008, 8.3% of employed adults2 had a Master’s degree. By 2016, that number has risen to 10% of employed adults. In Table 1, the difference between the educational attainment for all occupations in the workforce and each engineering occupation is presented (by highest degree) from 2008 to 2016. For each of the engineering occupations, there is a substantially larger proportion of individuals with Master’s degrees than in the total workforce. The lowest difference is 8.3 percentage points higher in 2008 and 9.4 percentage points higher for 2016 for industrial engineering. The largest difference is for environmental engineers, who have 25 percentage points more Master’s degrees in 2016 than in 2008.

Table 1: Difference from Educational Attainment for Full-Time Workforce in All Occupations

1 Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table 5.3 Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2016-17 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table 1.11 Education and training measurements for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2008
2 All data in this databyte refers to highest degree attained for adults over 25 with full-time employment in the United States.

Examining the same data for doctoral degrees yields a slightly different story. For doctoral degrees among employed adults, there was a smaller uptick in the workforce: In 2008, 3.8% had doctoral degrees and in 2016, 4.2% had doctoral degrees. The occupations of marine/naval engineering, mechanical engineering and industrial engineering have adults with fewer doctoral degrees than the overall workforce in both 2008 and 2016. All other engineering occupations have a slightly or moderately higher proportion of workers with doctoral degrees. Over the last 10 years, engineering workers have required more advanced education than other occupations with nearly all engineering occupations employing both more adults with Master’s and doctoral degrees than the rest of the U.S. workforce. This trend’s stability is a sign that it will continue over the next 10 years.



II. Evidence-Based Introduction to Teaching (EBIT)
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The Evidence-Based Introduction to Teaching (EBIT) is a one-week student-centered learning experience where post-docs and new faculty develop curricula for STEM college classrooms using evidence-based teaching methods. In other words, you will experience the same active learning techniques you are studying, and practice them on your peers. At the same time, you’ll apply familiar research principles of design, build, test and iterate to your own course curricula. Relevant literature on evidence-based teaching techniques will be highlighted. We will also have a session on writing a teaching philosophy statement. The workshop is designed for new faculty, but all STEM instructors are welcome. July 29 – August 2, 2019 at the University of Colorado, Boulder, from 12:30 to 4:30 pm each day. Registration fee: $50. Please visit http://www.cirtlcu.org/stripe/what-is-ebit-stripe/ for more information.


II. Education and Research Resources for Success
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Only 3 percent of America’s post-secondary institutions are historically black colleges and universities. Nevertheless, a large number of African-American students who earn doctorates in STEM disciplines attended an HBCU as undergraduates. Between 2009–13, 24 percent of black recipients of science and engineering Ph.D.’s earned their bachelor’s degrees at predominantly-black colleges. While many of these schools offer Master’s degrees, few have doctoral programs. The Bridge-to-Ph.D. program is a five-year, National Science Foundation-funded effort that aims to help diversify enrollment in engineering and mathematical-science programs at R1 universities. It was developed by academics at North Carolina Central University—a research-active black college—and North Carolina State University, the state’s largest research-intensive school. It works as a traineeship program for students earning physics or math Master’s degrees at NCCU. A paper written by academics involved in the Bridge program was presented in April at ASEE’s Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) conference. It looked at the successes and challenges of the program’s first three years. The paper concluded that Bridge program “has the potential to serve as a model of inter-institutional partnerships between HBCUs and R1 universities” that are seeking to encourage more minority students to pursue STEM doctorates. Find the paper here.

The Bridge program—which itself was modeled after a program developed by Fisk and Vanderbilt universities in Tennessee—allows trainee students to participate with doctoral candidates in a variety of activities, including seminars on technical and professional skills, multidisciplinary coursework, faculty-student research groups, and internships. The chief measure of success so far is the 100 percent acceptance rate of its trainees to doctoral programs. The biggest challenge it has faced is the relatively small number of math and physical sciences Master’s students at NCCU. Currently, it has only eight mathematics students and three physics students enrolled. So the schools are seeking to broaden the program by opening it to chemistry master’s students and to all physical-sciences undergraduates. They’ve also started a STEM professional development series for all STEM undergraduates in hopes of motivating more of them to pursue master’s degrees in math or physics.



Increasingly, there is money and support for integrating makerspaces into undergraduate engineering programs. A group of researchers from the University of Central Arkansas and Utah State, Oregon State and Mesa universities has been studying several of these embedded programs, in which faculty are expected to use makerspaces in their courses to support student learning. In a paper delivered at this year’s ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, the team’s research drilled in on one case study, located at a large research university. The researchers say it’s necessary to assess a range of variables to determine how and what students are learning in these spaces. To do that, they interviewed students, faculty, staff and directors over two and a half days. The paper—which gives an overall upbeat assessment of the program—specifically dwells on four key areas: whether makerspaces are inclusive and enable students to feel they belong; whether students are gaining knowledge from spaces and then putting it to use; the psychological variables that keep some students motivated and interested in working in makerspaces; and whether spaces allow for the development of professional identities. The study determined that students involved in makerspace projects are learning some aspects of the processes of engineering, including design, prototype, redesign and working with constraints and required criteria. The makerspace was also helping students develop professional identities, the researchers found. They also determined that the space was inclusive, that students felt a sense of belonging, and that it motivated students to learn. Find the paper here.


Academic, institutional and personal factors can determine which students will persist and succeed in engineering school. But money is also key. Financial need and socioeconomic status can affect whether a student will graduate. Student debt is increasing nationally, and engineering students who must pay premium tuition face an added burden. Accordingly, many programs, some of them federally funded, now exist to provide scholarships to help engineering students offset these expenses. But does getting a scholarship affect a student’s motivation? Researchers at Michigan State University believe it does, and in an ongoing study, they’re measuring student motivation at several intervals during their college years. Theirs is a large, longitudinal study of 6,366 students at a large midwestern research-intensive college that will include biannual surveys of students as well as registrar and financial-aid data. In a report presented at this year’s ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, the MSU researchers outlined their study. It boils down to three main questions: How does motivation vary between scholarship recipients and non-recipients? Among recipients, how does the scholarship affect their motivation? How do scholarships influence student motivation? Additionally, the study expects to classify students based on their financial needs (high, medium, low, or no need) to determine if the effects of scholarships differ between merit-based awards (mostly low- and no-need students) and need-based awards (mainly given to high- and medium-need students). Devining the relationship between scholarships and motivation, the researchers say, “would be beneficial for both faculty who work with engineering students and administrators who seek to support them.” Read the paper.






Robots are job-destroyers, but they’re also job-creators, according to the World Economic Forum. In a recent report, the forum says computerized automation will eliminate 75 million jobs by 2022, but also produce 133 million other positions. Because so many industries—manufacturing in particular—are being completely overhauled by automation, the New York Times reports, many secondary schools worldwide are trying to prepare their students for this brave new world by offering more classes in robotics and related disciplines. In many cases, the Times says, schools are working with educational materials developed by manufacturers and are even building special labs. The aim is twofold: to help students better understand how artificial intelligence works and to give them more exposure to an industry that’s hungry for workers who are savvy in robotics. The paper cites a recent study that says that manufacturers around the world may face a shortage of nearly 8 million workers by 2030. Manufacturers want to hire people who can operate, troubleshoot, maintain and install robotic technologies, a spokesperson for the SME Education Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the manufacturing trade group SME, tells the Times. But the SME says that negative perceptions about factory work persist, making it harder for the industry to recruit new talent. An executive at Honda North America worries that the parents of high-school students often “either have no idea what happens (in modern factories) or they have a misperception that it’s dark, dirty and dangerous, which is definitely not the case.” Moreover, automation is quickly being used in industries outside of manufacturing. The Times story looked at specific examples of robotics classes at schools in Ohio, Germany, Mexico, and South Korea.



This fall, Wake Forest University will begin to provide free STEM lessons to low-income K-12 students in the Winston-Salem area. Based at the university’s downtown campus, the program will initially train 18 Wake Forest undergraduates on how to conduct lessons in STEM topics at local schools and other public venues. The goal is to introduce more K-12 students to the possibilities of STEM careers. The program is funded by an $80,420 grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund, a Florida-based philanthropic foundation. The money will be mainly used for training the student docents and to provide them with teaching supplies. The program will be pilot-tested this year, and it’s hoped that going forward it will expand to include undergraduates from other local colleges and universities. Underrepresented minorities receive only 11 percent of research doctorates in science and engineering, although they comprise around 30 percent of the total U.S. workforce. The program hopes to encourage more minority K-12 students to seek degrees and careers in STEM fields.





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The Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) would like to hear your thoughts on the future of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) undergraduate education through an online survey. The responses are confidential, voluntary, and will only be analyzed and reported in aggregate. The Division will use the information in their planning of a large convocation of educators, education researchers, scientists, industry partners, and select student representatives to examine the status of undergraduate STEM education and to look ahead. Please note that this is a legitimate online survey that has been approved by the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 10 minutes per response, including the time for reviewing instructions. The survey closes July 1, 2019. The survey is available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/STEMEd2026





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