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ASEE Connections
November 2014 Subscribe
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NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering
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LSU College of Engineering
Exceeds $100 Million Public/Private Partnership Goal for Expansion

SAE International
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Minority Students Pursuing Master’s Degrees Over the Past Five Years

ASEE annually collects data from over 350 engineering schools, departments, and programs that have at least one undergraduate ABET accredited program and/or a graduate-level engineering degree program. This month’s Databyte examines the growth in enrollment of students underrepresented in engineering who are pursuing a master’s degree. As the table below shows, with the exception of Hispanic students, the number of minorities pursuing a master’s degree grew at a slower rate than did overall enrollment.






The Republicans’ strong showing in the midterm elections enabled the GOP to retake control of the Senate. Come January, all Senate panels will have new leadership. Here’s a sneak peek at several chairs-in-waiting.

Appropriations: Thad Cochran of Mississippi is due to take the gavel from Barbara Mikulski, chairing what has in recent years been one of the least politically divided committees. When it comes to higher education and R&D, he and his predecessor have similar records. Cochran was once crowned the "king of pork" by Fox News. Ole Miss, his alma mater, has a Thad Cochran Research Center. Mississippi State has a Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center.

Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee was president of the University of Tennessee and helped initiate the National Academies' landmark "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report and subsequent "Research Universities and the Future of America." He supported the original America COMPETES Act and late 2010 reauthorization.

Commerce, Science, and Transportation: John Thune of South Dakota doesn't match outgoing chairman Jay Rockefeller's strong support for university-based R&D. He neither supported nor opposed Rockefeller's expansive proposal to reauthorize COMPETES, but suggested he was willing to compromise. Likewise, he has withheld support for the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act. He tells NPR the GOP will focus on, among other things, energy and repealing the medical-device tax.

Energy and Natural Resources: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has called in the past for expanding R&D for nonrenewable energy, and told Bloomberg News: "A lot of the basic research that helped us figure out fracking came from the federal government.” She favors pursuing all forms of energy. She accepts that climate change is real but says it's pointless to argue about how much is caused by human activity.

Environment and Public Works: James Inhofe of Oklahoma presents a striking contrast to the current chair, California’s Barbara Boxer, who links her state's droughts to climate change and backs President Obama's Climate Action Plan. Inhofe has called climate change a hoax. He called the International Panel on Climate Change, and its latest report "nothing more than a front for the environmental left."


House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is reported by CQ to be teaming up with Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) on bipartisan legislation "to bolster American innovation in discovering, manufacturing, and delivering medicines and treatments for diseases."


Science advocacy groups are mounting a campaign for Congress to pass a year-long appropriations bill during the lame-duck session, while Democrats still control the Senate and GOP known quantities are in the House. The Coalition for National Science Funding, which backs NSF, says in its letter that the current Congress "has an important opportunity to continue its commitment to investing in America's research enterprise by providing sustainable funding for NSF in an FY 2015 Omnibus bill." CNSF asks that the agency receive $7.4 billion, noting that this figure already has been approved by the full House.




Driven to Distraction

From Texting to Tardiness to Cheating, Incivility and Misconduct can Disrupt Learning. Here are Some Tips for Controlling a Class

By Mary Lord

Thomas Shepard beams out at his audience of junior faculty members before delivering some unvarnished advice that he could have used as a new teacher. “How many of you have had students cheat on homework?” he asks. Most hands shoot up. “What about on finals?” About 20 percent indicate yes. “No school is immune,” says the University of St. Thomas engineering professor, warning that academic misconduct, requests for extensions or accommodations, tardiness, and other everyday hurdles can “nickel-and-dime your time” to the point of detracting from teaching, research, and service.

Ask instructors to name their biggest challenge, and classroom distractions very likely would top most lists. Even experienced engineering educators must compete for students’ attention against social media and texting. Classroom management has become so vexing that ASEE’s 2014 annual conference devoted several sessions to the topic, including Shepard’s panel presentation, “I Did Not Anticipate This: Experiences From the Early Years.”

Research has documented an increase in disruptive behavior and cheating by students over the past 20 years. And it’s not just among weaker students. So intense has grade pressure become that top GPA earners are also found to cheat. Engineering is cited as among the top five disciplines for misconduct, with some 80 percent of engineering majors reporting having cheated at least once. (Only business students were higher.) “Faculty come to higher education well versed in their subject matter but largely unprepared to successfully confront and manage disruptive behavior,” observe Jumoke Oluwakemi (or “Kemi”) Ladeji-Osias, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Morgan State University, and her colleague, Anita M. Wells, in a conference paper.

What students consider cheating can vary even within departments. A study by Gouranga Banik, chair and professor of civil and architectural engineering at Tennessee State University, found that construction management majors were less likely to see anything wrong with taking an exam for someone else than the department’s undergraduates as a whole.

The changing format of the modern engineering classroom, which spans traditional lecture halls to online courses and “flipped” classes, only exacerbates the challenge of maintaining decorum. Some schools have beefed up teacher training programs. Last year, for example, Morgan State’s Ladeji-Osias led a 90-minute in-service workshop on best classroom management practices with the university’s counseling director. The session, which included scenarios for handling students who were rude or violent, or who seemed to be drunk or on drugs, revealed that some faculty had limited awareness of common mental-health conditions and that engineering students often used counseling services a lot.

Such experiences are beginning to yield some research-proven rules of thumb, however. Here are some tips for ensuring a productive classroom environment:

1. Halt bad behavior before it starts.

“Set the expectations early,” in writing and verbally, recommends Ladeji-Osias, who says policies and requirements should be communicated on the first day of class. “You can always loosen up, but you have to establish what the boundaries are.” The syllabus, for example, should direct students to university resources where they can learn more about academic expectations and penalties for misconduct. Signal your intention to use plagiarism-detecting software on written and computer-programming assignments. Emphasizing the professional and ethical responsibilities of engineers, as ABET requires, also helps build a communitywide sense of right and wrong. Research shows that students are more likely to rationalize misconduct if they feel the instruction is poor, lecture confusing, or workload unreasonable. Underscoring the relevance of the material and learning objectives can boost motivation and reduce the urge to cheat, says St. Thomas’s Shepard, who goes over the university’s academic- integrity policies and explains the consequences of cheating along with the syllabus. Give students “time to read the policy word for word on the first day of class,” and answer any questions, he says. Faculty also should “make a point to read and understand their university’s academic misconduct policy” as well as know their authority to fail or otherwise penalize cheaters. Katie Siek, an associate professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University, finds that cheating in her project-based classes typically comes from students “borrowing” code or coasting on their teammates’ coattails. To combat the former, she makes students complete the university’s plagiarism test during the first week of school. Peer reviews in which teams must divvy up an imaginary $1,000 bonus have eliminated the latter by compelling students to justify their contributions.

2. Decrease anonymity.

Faculty who get to know their students tend to have less conflict in the classroom or hostile discourse online, report Morgan State’s Ladeji-Osias and Wells. Calling on students by name makes an instructor seem more approachable and thus more likely to gain their respect. Large lecture class? Scheduling time to meet individually with students can foster rapport.

3. Encourage active learning.

Classes that include peer-to-peer learning have fewer incidents of rude or unethical behavior, research indicates, because students tend to take more responsibility and hold each other accountable. Active learning and small-group work can reduce chatting and inattentiveness even in large classes, say Ladeji-Osias and Wells. Bridget Smyser, an assistant academic specialist and director of Northeastern University’s mechanical and industrial engineering labs, has students in her third-year Measurements and Analysis course do two or three in-class activities per lecture. “That helps with keeping people focused on the lecture,” she explains. Smyser also walks around “a lot,” checking to see who’s lost, finished, or merely absorbed in technology – like the student she caught watching a hockey game.

4. Make it harder to cheat.

The availability of solutions to textbook problems on the Internet makes it hard for engineering educators to directly address cheating on homework – typically an issue with first- and second-year students. St. Thomas’s Shepard points to research on the value of ungraded assignments, increasing the weight of projects, and either writing your own questions or swapping problems with instructors at other schools. Other studies have found that giving harsh warnings against cheating right before a test can reduce transgressions by 13 percent, with a 25 percent drop for writing multiple versions of a test. Meanwhile, plagiarism-detection software can cut down on copy-and-paste essays or computer code.

5. Establish ground rules for disruptive technologies.

Despite studies to the contrary, texting and surfing the Web aren’t considered distractions – or rude – by today’s digital denizens. Indeed, many students view smartphones and tablets as essential tools. A new Baylor University study of campus cellphone use revealed that female undergraduates log an astonishing 10 hours a day, and their male counterparts nearly eight. “Addictions to this seemingly indispensable piece of technology become an increasingly realistic possibility,” noted lead researcher James Roberts, a business professor. To minimize withdrawal pains, Indiana’s Siek has the class spend Day One discussing and then voting on what the rules and consequences should be for “disruptive technologies.” The most successful has been a two-minute texting/phone/email break in the middle of class – which is only 50 minutes long. “Everyone respects the rule,” says Siek. Another class voted to make violators “sing your text” or website. “I only had to enforce the rule once and students stopped,” she reports. Some schools, such as Clemson, have a faculty and student “bill of rights” that includes guarantees of civility.

6. If you can’t beat ’em…

Studies suggest that multitasking splits attention and impairs learning. Northeastern University researchers, for example, found that freshman engineering students who texted and surfed the Internet performed worse on content-retention tasks than their undistracted peers. Yet tablets, smartphones, and other mobile technologies also can be used to promote deeper engagement and understanding. Northeastern’s Smyser, who got a smartphone only earlier this year, saw absences plummet, engagement soar, and scores on certain in-class activities improve after she began permitting tablets and other technology in her Measurements and Analysis course. Her paper, “Please Play With Your Phones,” describes the evolution from a calculators-only policy in 2010 – which made in-class problem solving tedious and error-prone – to encouraging students to bring their own devices. They now take notes on tablets, use smartphone accelerometer apps to track their commute to class and graph the data, and conduct hands-on mini-experiments using other free measurement apps. Students also use their smart devices in independent projects – all without the college needing to invest heavily in infrastructure. The benefits of being able to troubleshoot in class are “huge,” says Smyser, who recently added a polling tool called Top Hat that can handle open-ended questions. The ability to get instant feedback and correct misconceptions, she says, “means 20 fewer people sending me email and knocking on my office door” with questions.

7. Address disruptive behavior immediately.

Faculty and students agree that ignoring incivility is the least effective approach for halting it. Ladeji-Osias and Wells recommend confronting inattentive students in private or refocusing the class by using think/pair/share or other active-learning techniques. “Be willing to end the class,” they advise, noting that severe disruptions, such as threats of violence, may leave faculty members no option but to stop the lecture and contact campus security.

In their teaching workshops, Richard M. Felder, a retired chemical engineering professor from North Carolina State University, and his wife, Rebecca Brent, ask participants to brainstorm responses to such everyday disruptions as students strolling in late, chatting loudly, or sleeping. Suggestions typically include ignoring the problem, throwing chalk, or ejecting the miscreants. Ironically, no one ever recommends asking the offenders politely but firmly to stop their rude behavior. “It’s almost as if instructors don’t know it’s legal to do it,” wrote Felder and Brent in a column. “It is legal. And it works.” So does embarrassment. To tune out that hockey game, Northeastern’s Smyser needed just one word: “Really?!”






A Maker Space of Their Own

Georgia Tech’s Invention Studio Has Transformed Engineering Education by Putting Creativity in the Students’ Hands

By Craig Forest, Margaret Tate, and Steven Norris

Creativity, invention, and innovation are championed as central pillars of engineering education. However, university environments that foster open-ended, design-build projects remain rare. On most campuses, fabrication and prototyping spaces typically are machine shops where all but a handful of qualified students relinquish actual construction activities to trained professionals.

The desire to make design and prototyping more integral to the engineering experience led Georgia Tech to create the Invention Studio – a 3,000-square-foot, $1 million “maker space” sponsored by industry and run by students. Opened in 2009, the facility initially was envisioned as a place where mechanical engineering students could bring their senior capstone design projects off the page and into the real world. It soon evolved into a “design-build-play” environment for students at every level and across disciplines that fundamentally has changed the school’s culture.

Several key elements set the Invention Studio apart from maker spaces at other schools. First, it primarily is student run; an undergraduate student group with support from the university staff and courses manages and maintains the facility. Second, access is 24/7 for undergraduate lab instructors and other student volunteers who work there during regular daytime hours. Third, the space is available for personal as well as class projects. Finally, apart from supplying their own materials, students pay nothing to use the space.

The Invention Studio has had a measurable impact on student engagement, manufacturing skills, attitude toward engineering, and sense of community. In any given month, some 1,000 students visit the facility to create things for at least 25 courses, hang out, and mentor each other as well as to work on independent personal projects. Student users average 6.5 hours per week in the studio, with 8 percent exceeding 20 hours a week. “I’m very invested in this room, helping other people with their projects,” says mechanical engineering student Joseph Pham, an undergraduate lab instructor who recently assisted a biomedical engineering major with a senior capstone design project. Each room has a sign thanking the 30 industry sponsors that helped build and support the Invention Studio. Besides the obvious draw of tools, successful maker spaces need areas for students to meet and learn from each other. Peer mentoring is another clear service provided by the Invention Studio, and many student leaders spend more than 10 percent of their time engaging in this activity. Makers Club officer Joshua Terry, a mechanical engineering major, spends a lot of time in the Invention Studio’s 3-D printing room. “I’ve gotten exposed to a lot of things I wouldn’t have otherwise,” he says, citing 3-D printers and laser and water-jet cutters. “They’re all very expensive tools, and the fact that we have access to them — you get experience with industry-grade technology before you even go into industry.”

While 80 percent of student users frequent the Invention Studio for at least one class assignment, many work on personal projects – something traditional building spaces such as machine shops do not allow. This may be a critical feature for long-term engagement of students and community building. Over 90 percent of users reported that the Invention Studio had a somewhat or very positive impact on their design skills, while approximately 88 percent reported a positive impact on their outlook on engineering. Additionally, more than 80 percent of users reported a positive impact on their manufacturing skills and safety.

The Invention Studio’s facilities, infrastructure, and cultural transformation are demonstrating the value and sustainability of hands-on, design-build education to stimulate innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship in engineering undergraduates. To guide others in the creation of similar environments, our AEE article details the underlying motivation, organization, facilities, outreach, safety, funding, impact, and challenges.

Craig Forest is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and founder of Georgia Tech’s Invention Studio. Margaret Tate and Steven Norris are members of the university’s communications team. This article was excerpted from “The Invention Studio: A Student-led Fabrication Space and Culture” in the Summer 2014 issue of Advances in Engineering Education.



V. LSU College of Engineering Exceeds $100 Million Public/Private Partnership Goal for Expansion Sponsored content

Expanded and renovated facility will be one of the largest free-standing engineering buildings in the U.S.

LSU’s College of Engineering announced the success of a record-breaking capital campaign to enhance and expand its facilities. On October 2, 2012, Governor Bobby Jindal punctuated the role of LSU’s College of Engineering in Louisiana’s economic development initiatives by announcing the support of $50 million in capital outlay funding, provided the college raised the remaining funds through private donations.

By December 2013, more than 450 individual and corporate donors pledged $55 million, exceeding the college’s commitment to raise $50 million toward a $100 million public/private partnership to renovate existing facilities and construct a chemical engineering addition. The state matched the additional $55 million providing a total of $110 million for the renovation and expansion of the engineering campus.

“The engineering expansion is an investment in our students and their careers,” said LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander. “It will also attract the top faculty who will work with students to solve some of our nation’s greatest problems.”

Architectural firm Coleman Partners in partnership with Perkins+Will were selected to transform LSU's engineering campus. Construction is slated to begin in the fall of 2014, with an estimated completion scheduled for fall 2017. Upon completion, the building will be one of the largest free-standing engineering buildings in the United States.

“New collaborative learning environments with state-of-the-art equipment will provide students a more practical, hands-on experience to better prepare them to enter the global marketplace,” said LSU College of Engineering Dean Rick Koubek. “Adding 50 new faculty members in the next five years, in the areas of energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, computation, and biotechnology, LSU will deliver innovative solutions to transform lives.”




VI. This Lightweight Materials Research Lab is a Heavy Hitter Sponsored content


By Mari Rich, Staff Writer

Nikhil Gupta describes his lab as "the place to break anything." In truth, it is much more.

Gupta is an Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering and the director of the school’s Composites Materials & Mechanics Laboratory, a top syntactic foam research lab in the world.

Syntactic foam is the lightweight composite now revolutionizing material science’s approach to engineering things like the USS Zumwalt (the Navy’s newest and largest destroyer, which has the radar profile of only a small fishing boat despite its size), the magic innards that made the World Cup soccer ball kick true, and the material that enabled the search for the missing Malaysian airliner in the face of punishing extremes of temperature and pressure deep under the sea.

Gupta’s lab is a place where composites, nanocomposites, bio-materials and carbon-fiber composite materials are developed and tested to create 30% lighter car brakes, state-of-the-art lightweight airplane parts, and other such innovative products.

The lab is also developing tests that rapidly reveal hard-to-detect microscopic bone fractures; making possible the manufacture of armor, helmets, and even ship materials that will absorb pressure and protect military personnel, athletes, and others; and investigating unicompartmental replacement knees that could lead to minimally invasive surgeries with much shorter recovery and rehabilitation time.

This year Gupta released a new book, Reinforced Polymer Matrix Syntactic Foams: Effect of Nano and Micro-Scale Reinforcement, which examines the fabrication processes, mechanism of reinforcement, and structure-property correlations of reinforced syntactic foams. True to form, the book presents theoretical models with experimental results and parametric studies, enabling end users to select compositions based on their requirements.




VII. Get a True Picture and Understand Compensation Practices Sponsored content


Our salary study is the only one of its kind to explore levels and changes in compensation and employment for engineers and technical employees in the automotive, aerospace, and commercial vehicle industries. It benchmarks compensation levels based on geography, education, industry sector, experience, and managerial and budgetary responsibility.

The average base salary and total compensation for engineers in the United States increased nearly 11% to $114,900, up from $95,700 in 2012. Worldwide, salaries for engineering and related technical positions in mobility industries saw an 8% increase, going from $91,800 in 2012 to $99,300.

Additionally, the online interactive salary calculator has been updated—imbedded data and reports reflect the enhanced level of analysis provided in the new report. “Our members will find the 2014 study and interactive salary calculator incredibly valuable,” said Matt Creech, Business Unit Leader of Membership & Sections, SAE International. “This information, which is free to members, will help mobility professionals to better assess their job today as well as explore where they may want to take their career in the future.”

The SAE Mobility Engineering Professional Salary Study is based on an email survey issued to 54,615 mobility engineers and related technical employees around the world. Both members and non-members of SAE International were asked a series of 30 questions related to their respective industry, company, educational background, job responsibilities, compensation, retirement, ethnicity, and more. A total of 5,651 individuals responded, resulting in an optimal margin of error of +/- 1.7% with a 95% confidence level.

The complete results of the study and the online calculator are available free to SAE Members at Non-members may purchase the study for $249 at, or join as a member for access at




VIII. Get more for less with 15% off of selected IET publishing products Sponsored content


Enhance your library’s digital collections and “Get More for Less” on premium scientific content that your library can own. For a limited time, The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is offering 15% off of selected digital research collections; specifically IET eBooks, Inspec Archive and IET Journals Archive. Learn more





Job–hunting? Here are a few current openings:

1. Additive Manufacturing – 2 opportunities

2. Director, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning – 1 opportunity

3. Engineering Science and Mechanics – 2 opportunities

Visit here for details:






A playlist of videos from the Engineering Technology Leadership Institute includes a short testimonial video, two panels, and Greg Pearson of the National Academy of Engineering.


The Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) is holding its 2015 Change Leader Forum - Roadmap to Inclusion: Engineering Excellence for the 21st Century next June 9-11 in Broomfield Col., outside Denver. The deadline for proposals is Nov. 26, 2014.



ASEE's Engineering Libraries Division has put together a lively collection of photos and tweets that captures the collaboration and camaraderie of the Indy conference. Check it out here.



The National Science Foundation’s Engineering Directorate has three current openings: Director of the Engineering Education and Centers division; director of the Broadening Participation in Engineering program (within the EEC division); and director of the Engineering Education program (also within EEC).



The National Science Foundation’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program is seeking ideas for new topics. These would be emerging interdisciplinary topics that are not currently supported by NSF programs and could potentially lead to transformative results that address national needs or a grand challenge. These ideas will serve as an important input to internal deliberations of NSF Directorate for Engineering on defining and selecting research topics for the 2016 EFRI Solicitation.

Learn more about EFRI here. To submit your idea please go the following url and follow the instructions.


This online library of over 1,700 juried articles and 300 videos was developed at James Madison University with NSF funding. The site provides resources for those researching or teaching sustainability across contexts.



Please help ASEE provide high-quality professional development to engineering faculty by answering a few questions about how much you would be willing to pay for faculty professional development and what areas of professional development you are most interested in for your faculty. Click the link below to access the survey. Faculty Professional Development Survey



on ASEE's Retention Project by clicking here for updates







Lab to Market: The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps gets researchers out of the lab to turn discoveries into promising start-ups.


CUSP: An NYU center crunches data from cameras, sensors, cellphones, and city records to take the pulse of the Big Apple.


K-12 STEM: A new program at the University of Colorado trains engineering students for K-12 teaching without diluting the discipline.

Read last month's issue of Prism magazine





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