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ASEE Connections

October 2019




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By Charles M. Stuppard

From 2014 to 2018, the total number of engineering degrees awarded increased by 32 percent. Computer Science (inside Engineering), Computer Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, and Civil/ Environmental Engineering increased more than any other discipline over that period; respectively, they’ve grown by 86 percent, 69 percent, 58 percent, and 51 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics “Employment outlook for engineering occupations to 2024” lists Environmental Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, and Civil Engineering as three out of the five occupations with the best employment outlook1. With the continued expansion of specializations within the tech industry, the number of Computer Science (inside Engineering) and Computer Engineering graduates is expected to grow rapidly.

Although most Engineering disciplines experienced growth from 2014–2018, four disciplines did not. The number of graduate and undergraduate degrees slightly declined for both Nuclear Engineering and Civil Engineering. Mining decreased by 24 percent at the undergraduate level, yet increased 24 percent at the graduate level; Biological Engineering & Agricultural Engineering increased 35 percent at the undergraduate level, yet decreased 11 percent at the graduate level.

Overall, undergraduate degrees have grown by 37 percent with Computer Science (inside Engineering), Computer Engineering, and Petroleum Engineering growing by 104 percent, 83 percent, and 70 percent, respectively. Graduate degrees, including Master’s and Doctoral programs, have grown by 24 percent. Civil/ Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, and Engineering (General) increased the most by 75 percent, 63 percent, and 50 percent, respectively.

Tables 1 and 2 show the undergraduate and graduate growth by discipline from 2014-2018.


Charles Stuppard is a data analyst in ASEE’s Institutional Research & Analytics Department.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Employment Outlook for Engineering Occupations to 2024. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2016/employment-outlook-for-engineering-occupations-to-2024.htm  




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A study conducted at the University of Texas at Arlington a few years ago determined that first-year engineering students who struggled with success and persistence, and who were most likely to drop out, were not properly trained in engineering problem-solving methodology and basic computer programming. The fix came in 2015, when the engineering college started a new course—Engineering Problem Solving—that uses active-learning methods and peer instruction. The instructor selects peer leaders who help mentor and guide fellow students in problem-solving activities. It also set up an Engineering Clinic with just-in-time tutoring sessions in a drop-in-styled group setting, which focuses on student questions as they arise. And the class did improve retention and persistence among freshman students. But to make the class even more successful, and to further address the needs of underprepared and underrepresented minority students, the college last year added supplemental instruction (SI) to the tutoring model. It, too, is working, according to a paper presented by four Arlington academics at ASEE’s First Year Engineering Experience (FYEE) conference at Penn State University in July.

SI uses a more structured studying method. Unlike just-in-time tutoring, it allows students and peer mentors to “drill down” into course materials so students gain a deeper conceptual understanding of the content and aren’t simply dealing with surface-level questions. The paper reports that attendance at SI sessions “greatly enhances” the success rate of pre-calculus students, a cohort that’s typically considered unprepared for engineering. The more sessions students attended, the more they succeeded. The researchers found that 100 percent of students who attended SI sessions before the first exam were retained, and the retention rate also increased to 100 percent for students who didn’t attend any sessions until after the first exam. The supplemental sessions improved success and retention rates among both male and female students, but female students benefitted the most. The study also found that while the clinic improved success rates for African American students, it had a minimal effect on increasing their retention levels—but it notes that may be due to a low sample size. It concludes: “The structured and active-learning atmospheres that both of these resources offer provide students the academic support structures that are critically needed in their first year.” (Link: https://peer.asee.org/an-investigation-on-the-effects-of-supplemental-instruction-and-just-in-time-tutoring-methods-on-student-success-and-retention-in-first-year-engineering-course)



A few years ago, Paul Nissenson, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, conducted a study on how well a flipped-classroom approach worked in teaching an introductory computer-programming course for mechanical engineering students in the spring of 2014. It was the first time he had taught a flipped course. In that study, he compared a flipped-classroom approach, where students met for 75 minutes a week, to a traditional lecture class that met for 100 minutes a week. Nissenson determined the flipped approach didn’t harm academic performance and students loved it. Last April, at ASEE’s 2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting, Nissenson presented a new paper based on teaching four sections of the class during the fall 2014 and winter 2015 quarters. He wanted to gather additional data by repeating the exercise using lessons he had learned the previous year—for instance, he modified the questions used in class activities. He also wanted to see if the amount of in-class time affected results.

The two fall sections were taught traditionally: One met twice-weekly for 50 minutes; the other, weekly for 110 minutes. And two were taught using the flipped format: One met weekly for 75 minutes; the other, weekly for 110 minutes. Flipped-class students were assigned to watch short tutorial videos before each class, and were quizzed to ensure they had watched them. Nissenson used class time for example problems and to wage Team Battles, an active-learning exercise pitting student teams against one another in solving short programming problems for small prizes (a tiny bit of extra credit and candy). Comparing all six quizzes and exams, he found that students in flipped classes outperformed those in the traditional sections on high-stakes assessments (midterms and finals) and in overall course grades. At least half of the students in the two flipped courses received an A- or A, compared with just 20 percent of students in the lecture courses. Students in the flipped section that met for 110 minutes a week outperformed all of the other three sections on quizzes and exams. Students in the flipped courses later said they “overwhelmingly enjoyed” the Team Battles and felt they were effective, and considered the amount of in-class time sufficient to learn the material. Nissenson notes that he’s since taught four more flipped versions of the course and found similar results. Moreover, he successfully used a flipped format in 2016-17 to teach a fluid mechanics course. (Link: https://peer.asee.org/impact-of-varying-in-class-time-on-student-performance-and-attitudes-in-a-flipped-introductory-computer-programming-course)





Students who are non-native English speakers face a tough time in STEM classes. That’s because there is a misalignment between the ways their English and STEM classes are taught, even though the students take all the courses in tandem, according to phys.org. Okhee Lee, a professor of childhood education at New York University, tells the online publication that the framework, curriculum and instruction for English language proficiency standards do not take into account what else they are learning outside of those English classes. Meanwhile, she adds, too many STEM instructors fail to understand that these students are only just learning to read, write and speak English. This is a fairly major problem, in that the fastest-growing subset of America’s student population is English learners, who number 4.9 million, or 9.6 percent of public-school students. Lee is working to develop English language proficiency standards that are more in tune with other coursework, particularly STEM courses, the publication says. In a recent research article, Lee offers recommendations to support a federal mandate in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, which requires that English proficiency standards align with content standards. “In effect,” Lee says, “we are holding English learners back from their ability to achieve the rigorous content standards expected of them to be ready for college or careers when graduating from high school. It is my hope that scholars from English language education and STEM subjects come to the table and agree on English language proficiency standards that will serve to uplift these children, rather than hold them back.”



Michigan is joining Complete College America (CCA), a national organization based in Indianapolis that works with states, systems and institutions to “dramatically” increase college completion rates, according to Chalkbeat. Michigan had been one of around nine states yet to join the group. The move follows a pledge made eight months ago by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to boost the percentage of Michigan residents with a postsecondary education credential from 43.7 percent to 60 percent by 2030. Whitmer, a Democrat elected in Nov. 2018, says the pledge was one of her first acts as governor because “every Michigander deserves a path to a good-paying job that they can support themselves and their families on. When we break down barriers, especially for low-income students, first-generation college-going students, and students of color, we can grow our economy, close the skills gap and ensure every family can thrive here in Michigan.” The plan isn’t to ensure that all students earn a four-year college degree; credentials can include associate degrees and skilled-trade certificates. Nationally, completion rates for postsecondary education are horrible. Only 5 percent of students complete an associate degree within two years, and just 19 percent of students obtain a bachelor’s degree within four years. Established a decade ago, CCA works to promote highly effective structural reforms and policies that can improve student success rates.





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The National Academy of Engineering’s 2019 Simon Ramo Founders Award has been won by Cato Thomas Laurencin “for fundamental, critical, and groundbreaking scientific advances in the engineering of tissues, guiding technology and science policy, and promoting diversity and excellence in science.” A leader in biomaterials, nanotechnology, stem-cell science, drug delivery systems, and regenerative engineering, Laurencin is a professor at the University of Connecticut. His titles include: professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; professor of materials science and engineering; professor of biomedical engineering; aendowed professor of orthopaedic surgery; and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering. Additionally, NAE’s Arthur M. Bueche Award has been presented to Roderic Ivan Pettigrew, right photo, “for leadership at the [National Institutes of Health] and for academic and industrial convergence research and education, resulting in innovations that have improved global health care.” Pettigrew is CEO of Engineering Health (EnHealth) and executive dean for Engineering Medicine (EnMed) at Texas A&M and Houston Methodist Hospital. He was founding director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Read Prism’s profiles of Laurencin here, and of Pettigrew here. The awards were presented October 6 at NAE's annual meeting.



ASEE is seeking applications and nominations for the position of Editor-in-Chief for the journal Advances in Engineering Education. The anticipated start date for this volunteer position is July 1, 2020, with applications due this fall. Learn more here.






COVER: RESILIENCE—Preparing students and communities for the next disaster.


FEATURE: SPACE JUNK—Universities develop ways to clear debris from low-earth orbit.


FEATURE: NEWARK—An unusual math partnership seeks to boost the number of engineering students in a struggling city.





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