If this message is not displaying properly, please view the online version .

ASEE Connections

August 2018




In This Issue:

Products & Programs

ASEE Promotion:

ASEE's Exclusive New "Engineering Education Suppliers Guide"
A new online resource designed specifically to help engineering educators locate products and services for the classroom and research.
Learn More



By Daodao Wang

This graphic shows undergraduate enrollment in engineering according to colleges’ Carnegie Classification1. Doctoral institutions dominate the percentage chart by taking up to 80 percent of enrollment; Master’s institutions follow and Baccalaureate institutions are the absolute minority in this category. All special schools and schools without a classification are included in the Other category.

Source: Survey data for ASEE’s Profile of Engineering and Engineering Technology Colleges.

1 Please refer to http://carnegieclassifications.iu.edu/ for more details about Carnegie Classification and how the classification is given.

Total Undergraduate Enrollment in Engineering by Carnegie Classification, 2017


Figure 1. Percentage by Carnegie Classification

Figure 2. Total Enrollment by Carnegie Classification






In late July, after 19 months in office, President Trump finally named his pick to head the White Office of Science and Technology Policy. And that giant sigh of relief you may have heard coming from Washington was the science community’s pleasantly-surprised reaction. The nomination of Kelvin Droegemeier, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma for 33 years, was widely applauded by scientists. He is a much-respected expert on extreme weather and also has political experience, having spent five years on the National Science Board.

The OSTP’s remit is to provide the White House with sound science advice on policies affected by science. Topics range from economics and foreign affairs to health and medical research, the environment, and artificial intelligence, including autonomous vehicles. Its staff, which numbered 135 during the Obama administration, has shrunk to 55. And while Obama’s OSTP director, John Holdren, was also a personal advisor to Obama and met with him several times a week, there’s no guarantee that Droegemeier will have a similar relationship with Trump. Senate Democrats are expected to grill Droegemeier intensely, particularly on climate change. He has not publicly indicated his views on global warming, and Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said she’s not sure what his personal views are. But Rosina Bierbaum, an environmental policy expert at the University of Michigan who has worked with him, told Nature she is “certain he believes in mainstream climate science.”



In 2011, the Obama administration’s Department of Education announced a “gainful employment” rule, aimed mainly at for-profit colleges and universities, that penalized schools whose graduates lacked reasonable job prospects. Colleges found in violation would lose their eligibility to offer students federally funded Pell grants and federal student loans. The rule also required schools to make it clear in promotional materials whether they were, or were not, meeting federal standards for job placements. A federal judge in 2012 rejected part of the rule, and the department was working on a revision when President Trump won election in 2016. A watering-down of the regulation was expected, since Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is known to favor the privatization of education and has vowed to slash regulations. But the department plans to repeal the gainful employment rule outright. In its place, the department will offer more program-level outcomes data through the College Scorecard, Inside Higher Ed reports. The Chronicle of Higher Education noted that news of the repeal came in the same week that the department also took steps to make it harder for student-loan borrowers who claim their colleges defrauded them to get federal relief from their debts. DeVos has been criticized for hiring a number of former executives and lobbyists from the for-profit sector to fill key posts in the department.





Use of online forms can enrich students’ inquiry and analysis and assist in peer assessments.

By Chris Rogers

I am co-teaching a course on experimentation methods. During one class, our junior mechanical engineers correlated a person’s height both to wingspan (fingertip to fingertip) and to birth month as a way to learn about means, standard deviations, linear fits, and even kurtosis. As one might expect, the correlation of the first two is quite good, whereas it is a little known fact that the month in which you were born does not determine your height. They predicted the skewness, found the R-squared value, and generally started the discussion around correlation and causation.

What impressed me was the speed with which we could get a personally relevant data set for the students to investigate. In the first few minutes of class, the students whipped out their phones and filled in a Google form. They then downloaded the resulting Google Sheet as a CSV file, pulled it into LabVIEW, and embarked on their analysis. In five minutes we were analyzing data. The larger the class, the better the data set. I was excited to see how quickly they started questioning the accuracy of self-reported data, looking for physical causes of correlations, and wondering about why the distribution of birth months was more bimodal than flat—was that a result of less than 50 students in the class or something else?

Online forms, such as the Google form, can be used in many ways in the engineering classroom. My colleagues use Qualtrics, Survey Monkey, Google, or other tools to get at student thinking and gauge class knowledge. How is the class progressing? What do they understand? What do they predict will happen? Is the class moving too fast? Real-time surveys like Mentimeter or Socrative allow students to vote or give an opinion on the spot for the entire class to see, allowing the teacher to get instant feedback on a question or idea. Forms that allow attachments can also promote the idea of data sharing. Instead of every team duplicating the same data set, the class as a whole develops a shared data set for analysis. One team might measure the heat loss in an aluminum fin, for instance, while other teams measure the loss in different materials. The forms act as a rudimentary data sharing scaffold, ensuring that everyone documents his or her experimental setup and standardizing the data storage format. It allows the students to think of a design of experiments (DOE) that includes the entire class rather than just a single team, providing substantially more data to analyze and compare. Again, a larger class (or multiple sections) only improves the DOE and the diversity of data sets.

Where I use forms the most, though, is in peer-to-peer assessments. Students can grade one another”s presentation, project, or journal paper, and as the instructor, I can define the rubric (or the rubric can be developed as a class). These grades can vary from a single rating (8 = good, 9 = excellent, 10 = I called my parents I was so impressed) to written assessments. Rather than grading 40 papers from students, the forms allow me to emulate the peer-review system in our journals. Students read and review three articles each, learning not only the review process but also how to critique both their own and others’ work. Students appreciate the ability to leave the typical confines of the traditional classroom (one expert who knows all) and more closely follow the assessment methods of the world outside college (where there is no one expert). When trying to assess students’ creativity, in particular, I find that the crowd-sourced assessment is always better than mine.

Forms help the instructor understand student thinking. They also catalyze critiques and allow students to share data. These are all vitally important parts of the engineering process. For these tools to be really meaningful, though, students need to be working on an authentic problem—one that does not have the right answer in the back of a book. Moreover, I have found solving authentic problems makes teaching more fun and the students always seem to appreciate it (based on the student reviews). And who knows? Maybe someday we will find that unexpected correlation, show it is causal, and then the class will get really exciting.

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





‘Photoelicitation’ yields rich student responses to dilemmas with no right answers.

By Catherine Berdanier, Xiaofeng Tang and Monica Cox

Ethics education is often decontextualized in undergraduate or graduate studies. Students are assessed using multiple-choice platforms that ask them to choose the “right” solution to an ethical situation. This approach to ethics education is both inauthentic, because real dilemmas have no “right” solution, and one that often focuses on individual ethics, rather than how engineering decisions might affect an ecosystem of visible and invisible stakeholders.

We conducted a qualitative study of the ethical reasoning of doctoral materials science engineering students after they participated in a two-week trip to India. The students were members of a National Science Foundation-funded Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) whose research interests centered on sustainable electronics. The purpose of the international experience was to tour companies, factories, nongovernmental organizations, and other institutions that affect or are affected by the electronics supply chain. For the doctoral students, who develop electronics technologies in their laboratories in the United States, the experience was enlightening. Seeing who makes electronics, where, and under what conditions required the doctoral students to reconsider the motivation for their research as well as their technical decisions.

To investigate ethical reasoning, we employed “photoelicitation,” a method borrowed from sociology and psychology. As part of an interview protocol, we showed participants photographs that had been taken during the trip, asking them to reflect on the images and what they represented. Participants were also prompted to reflect on whether they would have seen each photograph as “positive” or “negative” before the trip, and how that compared with how they saw it afterward. The photographs represented a variety of ethical dilemmas, including issues related to manufacturing safety practices and safety culture and gender parity across cultural boundaries. They also dealt with issues of “sustainability,” since the definition of sustainability is itself culturally dependent.

The data collected through interviews showed rich ethical reasoning on the part of the students, who demonstrated that they had become much more aware of the often invisible stakeholders affected by engineering decisions. This reasoning is especially relevant in industries such as electronics, where products are manufactured in other countries that have different safety cultures or definitions of sustainability. Our participants showed deeply contextualized and nuanced views of these themes in the context of electronics manufacturing in India.

The depth of ethical reasoning demonstrated by the participants in this study points to the importance of teaching ethics through “messy” dilemmas and authentic situations. The doctoral student participants quickly recognized that they would soon become the thought leaders who will design the electronics of the future. As one participant deftly noted, the question in engineering technological advances might become “not can we do it, but should we do it?”

It is idealistic to recommend that all engineering students be funded to travel abroad to experience authentic engineering dilemmas as a way to facilitate engineering ethical reasoning. However, our findings indicate that instructors should not shy away from presenting difficult ethics-oriented situations to engineering students, even if there is not a clear-cut, “right” solution. Real-world or authentic engineering activities that students undertake such as internships, co-ops, or research experiences all have embedded ethical components and can serve as departure points for discussion. Individual ethical choices should be discussed, as well as the role of engineers in a world where all technical engineering decisions have rippling social, economic, and environmental consequences.

Further, we see an excellent opportunity for engineering instructors to include photoelicitation methods in ethics instruction within the engineering classroom. Case studies can be augmented to include multimedia components such as photographs, newspaper articles, scholarly publications, and interviews with multiple stakeholders for students to build their ethical understanding using “evidence” about the issue at hand. This multidimensional technique for teaching engineering ethics brings to life issues that might seem one-dimensional when written as traditional case studies. In addition, using a portfolio of testimonies or evidence about a particular ethical situation can highlight for students the fact that many of the stakeholders affected by a particular engineering decision or practice may be unseen and live thousands of miles from where the original engineering decision is made.

Catherine Berdanier is an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Penn State University; Xiaofeng Tang is an assistant professor of practice and Monica Cox is a professor and chair of the Department of Engineering Education at Ohio State University. This article is excerpted from “Ethics and Sustainability in Global Contexts: Studying Engineering Student Perspectives Through Photoelicitation” in the April 2018 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education.




Job–hunting? Here are a few current openings:





Visit here for details: http://www.asee.org/sales-and-marketing/advertising/classified-advertising/job-postings





COVER: COMPUTER SCIENCE—Growing student demand for computer science leads some academics to argue that the field needs its own schools, separate from engineering.

FEATURE: PRESIDENT—A profile of Stephanie Farrell, ASEE’s 2018–2019 president.

FEATURE: UFOs—They’re not a crackpot notion, or not totally. The Pentagon took unexplained aerial sightings seriously enough to spend $22 million investigating them from 2007 to 2012. What are today’s aerospace and physics researchers saying?






A special issue of Advances in Engineering Education aims to curate proven practices and initiate larger conversations emerging from the work of engineering programs that engage students and faculty in the rigorous research, design, field-testing, and dissemination of technology-based solutions that address global development challenges. Read the Call for Papers here.


The second Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) conference will be April 14–17, 2019 at the Marriott CrystalGateway outside Washington D.C. The Deadline to Submit your Abstract is October 1, 2018 at 23:59 EDT. See the Call for Papers, and Authors’ Kit. To submit an abstract, you’ll need to be logged in to ASEE. See presentations from the 2018 conference.


The Journal of Engineering Education (JEE) editorial team is considering changes to our strategic plan, processes for publishing articles, and formats for articles. We would like to gather input from members of the engineering education community to help better inform these decisions. Please complete this survey to provide your feedback. The survey is short and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.


One of the activities planned to mark ASEE’s 125th anniversary is EEin25, the first-ever ASEE video contest. Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students may submit a 90-second video on where engineering education will be in 25 years at ASEE’s 150th Anniversary in 2043. Click here to find out more. Click here to learn about other activities commemorating 125 Years at the Heart of Engineering Education.




Do you have a comment or suggestion for Connections?

Please let us know. Email us at: connections@asee.org. Thanks.


This newsletter was sent to you by:

American Society for Engineering Education
1818 N Street, N.W.
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036


Managing Editor: Tom Grose
Information for Advertisers


To unsubscribe from this newsletter, please reply to connections@asee.org with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line - please include the email address that you would like removed from the mailing list.


This email was sent to [email address suppressed]. If you are no longer interested you can unsubscribe instantly.