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ASEE Connections

January 2019




In This Issue:

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By Daodao Wang

Over the past five years, undergraduate engineering enrollment and degrees awarded in computer and electrical related disciplines have increased rapidly. Together, computer science (inside engineering) and electrical engineering awarded 63 percent of degrees in these fields in 2016.

Figure 1. Engineering Bachelor degrees in Computer and Electrical related disciplines, 2013–2017

Figure 2. Engineering Bachelor enrollment in Computer and Electrical related disciplines, 2013–2017



II. NCEES Subject Matter Reports Distributed to All ABET-Accredited Programs
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How well do your students measure up against their peers from other ABET-accredited programs?

Hundreds of engineering educators just received their school’s NCEES Subject Matter Reports. Distributed biannually each January and July, the reports provide in-depth analyses of how students performed on the FE exam relative to peers from other ABET-accredited programs.

As the only nationwide engineering exam designed for college seniors, the FE exam is an excellent source for feedback on how well students meet the outcomes prescribed by accreditation criteria.

Need assistance with encouraging your students to take the FE exam? You can request a speaker to come to your classroom. The more students that take the exam, the more valuable the information is to you.

NCEES provides a variety of resources for engineering educators to use for effective outcomes assessment.

• Sample subject matter reports
• Frequently asked questions
• Instructions for using FE exam results

To find out who is receiving the report for your institution, email institutionreports@ncees.org.






A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists claims that the Department of Interior under its former secretary, Ryan Zinke, spent the first two years of the Trump administration undermining its traditional role as a steward of natural resources and public lands while making it easier for industries, especially fossil fuels, to advance their operations. Much effort, the report says, went into sidestepping science in making policy. “The intent in rolling back the consideration of science in decision-making is always to progress the development of fossil fuel interests,” lead author Jacob Carter tells Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik. Zinke resigned in December and is facing multiple ethics violations investigations. The report says Zinke and his political appointees terminated multiple research projects or canceled them before they got going. One would have studied the health effects of coal strip mining in Appalachia. Interior also put the kibosh on an environmental impact assessment of sulfide ore mining near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness, a popular recreational area, and renewed mining leases that had been put on hold by the Obama administration. The report says Interior is a prime example of Trump administration freezing out scientific advisory committees. Zinke, in a post-resignation interview with the Associated Press, defended the changes he had made at Interior, saying they were needed to unfetter energy companies held back by unreasonable drilling curbs imposed under Obama. “Teddy Roosevelt said conservation is as much development as it is preservation,” Zinke told the AP.



NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine rescinded an invitation to Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, to visit the United States after it was met with fierce criticism on Capitol Hill, the Washington Post reports. “We had heard from numerous senators suggesting that this was not a good idea,” Bridenstine told the Post. Rogozin was placed on a sanctions list in 2014, when he was deputy prime minister, to protest Russian military moves in Ukraine. Since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the U.S. have managed to work as partners on several key space missions, including the International Space Station, despite often being political adversaries. Since NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011, the U.S. has relied on Russian spacecraft to fly astronauts to the station. After being slapped with the sanctions, Rogozin said at the time that Russia should stop shuttling American astronauts to the ISS. Bridenstine told the Post he had worked with the Treasury Department to allow Rogozin to visit. He explained he sought to bring his Russian counterpart to the U.S. to “keep a strong working relationship that was separate from geopolitics and even partisan politics in the United States, and that’s been good for both countries.”





Tomorrow’s complex gobal challenges will require profound shifts in how we educate engineers today.

By Marielze Oliveira

We live in a changing world. Population growth is accelerating, with 2 billion more people projected to inhabit our crowded planet by 2050. Global economic growth is slowing, and unemployment, underemployment, and inequality are on the rise. Meanwhile, climate change threatens health and livelihoods even as we overshoot the planet’s ability to renew environmental resources at the same pace they are consumed.

This also is a world of much promise and innovation, however. Countries like China, the leading patent holder in green technologies, are investing heavily in clean energy and other environment-friendly solutions. Information and computer technologies are forging closer connections and speeding productivity gains around the globe, while biotech is setting the stage for eradication of diseases that have plagued mankind for millennia. Crowdsourcing and the sharing economy are reducing resource consumption rates and waste.

Advances in science and engineering have been central to human progress ever since the invention of the wheel. But for the world to progress sustainably, as envisioned by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, we must participate not only in creating and sharing knowledge and innovation but also in ensuring that such progress is grounded in ethics and universal human values. Automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics promise incredible economic growth, yet they also can exacerbate inequality within and between nations and contribute to unemployment.

Changes of such magnitude require an equally profound transformation in the education systems that equip engineers with the skills and competencies needed for rapidly evolving markets and societies as well as for fields and occupations that have yet to emerge.

Engineering education has never played a more crucial role—in empowering people to live dignified lives, supporting economies to correct imbalances and thrive, helping left-behind areas incorporate digital technologies, facilitating transitions to green and sustainable societies, and fostering international cooperation for peace and sustainable development. Engineering education is so important that UNESCO is dedicating its next Engineering Report, being written in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, to understanding the opportunities and gaps the world faces in this area.

Engineering educators have a responsibility to chart a more inclusive, equitable, sustainable, and shared future for all humanity. Decisions on how technologies are designed, developed, and deployed are made by scientists and innovators often beyond the scrutiny or even the understanding of the ordinary people who will bear the consequences of those choices, such as the impact of fossil fuel technologies on the environment. Our AI and other “techies” no longer can simply chase unicorns in a no-man’s-land, devoid of shared ethical standards that ensure respect for human dignity and rights.

Our systems need to produce engineers who fully understand the economic, social, environmental, and international impacts and contexts of their professional activities and inventions. We need engineers who can explain to ordinary people what they expect to achieve and help citizens make good policy choices. And we need engineers who understand legal issues beyond intellectual property rights and patents, so they can help formulate principles, standards, and frameworks that uphold human values and protect the vulnerable.

We need a new vision of engineering education, one that embraces a lifelong perspective in learning and transforms, rather than merely strengthens, the linkages between education and the broader development framework. This new vision must start with basic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in primary and secondary schools, including exposing students to engineering concepts and ethical values as early as possible. Beyond technical skills, higher education also needs to discuss how to instill essential global competencies. Engineering talent is sought internationally, and engineers require significant intercultural skills to collaborate with colleagues who come from a variety of backgrounds.

Inclusion also must be addressed, particularly how to ensure gender equality in fields like IT, which is leaving women behind at an increasing pace. We need to discuss how international cooperation will mitigate the “brain drain” in less developed countries as the global competition for engineering and science talent heats up. And we need to increase accessibility in engineering education, where the enormous capacities and talents of persons with disabilities such as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking often get overlooked.

Engineering education systems can do more and better. As the “best of the best” in their fields, engineering educators surely will bring new ideas to the table.


Marielza Oliveira is director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s Beijing office, which covers China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia, and the Republic of Korea. This article, published as a Last Word in Prism, was adapted from her speech at the International Forum on Engineering Education at Tsinghua University on Sept. 24, 2018.






Sharing bits of knowledge and ideas allows conceptual understanding to grow.

By Ying Cao and Milo Koretsky

Engineering educators and industry partners generally agree that it is important to develop students’ conceptual understanding to prepare them for engineering practice. We are interested in studying how a set of interactive virtual laboratories (IVL), two-dimensional computer simulations we have developed, helps develop conceptual understanding of thermodynamics. However, to do so, we needed to change how we approached conceptual understanding—from solely assessing if an answer was right or wrong to examining how students interacted and assembled their ideas in answering. Our study reports on this shift in perspective and what it enabled us to learn about the IVLs.

Recent engineering education research has applied a misconception perspective to conceptual understanding. It asserts that conceptual knowledge is an abstract entity that students acquire, and their answers are either correct or wrong. This valuable perspective has allowed engineering educators to show how the use of clickers and active learning pedagogies can improve conceptual understanding. However, when applied to student learning in the IVLs, we found that the misconception perspective did not sufficiently allow us to progress on design of the tool or the learning environment.

We developed an alternative construct, shared resources. It draws from the work of learning scientists, such as Andy diSessa and David Hammer, who describe knowledge as emerging from the organization of small pieces of primitive ideas that students bring to bear on a situation and serve as cognitive resources. Learning involves activating and assembling resources to make sense of a phenomenon. We identify shared resources as those activated by different students working together and which contribute to collective group understanding. Features of technology can stimulate students to activate more or different resources relevant to the topic of interest, and group interactions provide opportunities for activating, coordinating, and sharing resources. While the empirical study precipitated our conceptualization of the shared-resources construct, it is consistent with what we have observed in other collaborative learning environments.

We used the construct of shared resources to analyze 187 junior engineering students’ written responses to three conceptual questions as they completed the Thermodynamic Work IVL in a studio (collaborative group work) setting. We found that almost everyone demonstrated productive ideas, but they all also revealed opportunities to learn more. Moment-by-moment interactions of four of these students were captured by video and audio recordings to show the conditions during which resources were shared.

Shared resources give credit to students’ prior ideas rather than identifying deficiencies and criticizing them. Thus, we could recognize productive ideas in students’ evolving understanding of thermodynamic work and elaborate on the interwoven cognitive and social aspects of learning. Instructors adopting this perspective would look for practices that lead to students sharing resources during collaborative activities; for example, making student thinking visible, noticing and re-voicing student ideas, and facilitating group interactions to include all students.

The construct of shared resources also fundamentally shifts the ways we approach the design and implementation of technology-based learning environments. Instructors should consider how technology is deployed to position students to share resources. We argue that attributing student learning or their misconceptions to features of a simulation tool leads educators to place too much reliance on the technology itself. Rather than rush to address unsatisfactory learning gains by investing in the costly development of more effective technologies, we recognize a class environment in which an existing technology can be leveraged to become more effective. The social structure of groups in the studio setting was critical to allowing individual students to share their activated resources. In other words, we shift the perspective from one where learning occurs through the technology to one where the technology is a useful epistemic tool in a collaborative learning environment.


Ying Cao is an assistant professor in the School of Education and Child Development and director of the Innovation and Teaching Center at Drury University. Milo Koretsky is a professor of chemical engineering at Oregon State University. This article is adapted from “Shared Resources: Engineering Students’ Emerging Group Understanding of Thermodynamic Work,” in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Engineering Education.





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COVER: GEOENGINEERING—As science discovers that climate change is proceeding faster than projected even a few years ago, some researchers are looking beyond mere mitigation to explore engineering methods to cut global warming.

FEATURE: CANADA—A look at our northern neighbor’s “innovation clusters.”

BONUS FEATURE: TAMPA—The sights, sounds, and sensations of the Florida Gulf Coast city hosting ASEE’s 2019 Annual Conference.





Registration and Housing are open for the 2019 Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD). Click here to register today.


Check the ASEE website to keep track of paper submission and deadlines: https://www.asee.org/conferences-and-events/conferences/annual-conference/2019/important-deadlines.




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