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June 2020


  • NSF Survey of Recent Graduates Finds Many Dissatisfied with Salary and Job Benefits


  • As Freshmen Learn, Their Priorities Change, a Study of Reflections Finds
  • A Spaghetti Bridge Summer Competition Teaches High School Students About Engineering


  • Tools for Teaching Remotely: An Offer from JSTOR, the Digital Library
  • Pandemic Teaching, Learning Sessions Set for Virtual Conference
  • Two Upcoming ASEE Webinars on Remote Education


  • Where Expertise Counts in Humanitarian Engineering


  • A Call to Action Against Racism
  • Virtual ASEE Reception for Members, Allies of the LGBTQ+ Community
  • Web-Based Teaching Tips Welcomed
  • Career-Launch Program for New Faculty Offered


By Carolyn Wilson

For this Databyte, data from the National Science Foundation’s 2017 National Survey of College Graduates was used to look at the importance of various job aspects compared to satisfaction in those job aspects among 9,348 engineers.

Figures 1, 2, and 3 display the percentage of engineers who rated each job aspect as very important and the percentage of engineers who were very satisfied with their jobs. Regardless of their degree level, engineers’ level of satisfaction with their salary and job benefits do not match the importance graduates attach to these aspects of their jobs. The results indicate that many desire better benefits and a higher salary. Among bachelor’s and master’s graduates, benefits and salary showed the largest gap between importance and satisfaction. Doctoral graduates rated intellectual challenge, job benefits, and job security as very important, but showed dissatisfaction with salary, opportunities for advancement, and job benefits.

While 33 percent of bachelor’s and 41 percent of master’s graduates rated their job’s contribution to society as very important, higher percentages of both groups rated their job’s contribution to society as very satisfying. A higher percentage of doctoral graduates rated their level of responsibility as very satisfying than considered it to be very important. While engineers may not all be very satisfied in the job aspects they find very important, they seem to find more satisfaction in areas they may not consider as important, indicating a clash between the aspects that may keep them engaged in their current position versus the aspects that may drive their desire for career advancement.

Figure 1: Aspects of Engineering Jobs Rated Very Important vs. Very Satisfying among Bachelor’s Graduates

Figure 2: Aspects of Engineering Jobs Rated Very Important vs. Very Satisfying among Master’s Graduates

Figure 3: Aspects of Engineering Jobs Rated Very Important vs. Very Satisfying among Doctoral Graduates


When first-year, first-semester engineering students are asked to reflect on how they think of themselves as learners, what’s uppermost in their minds? Does their main concern change as they segue from the start of the semester to the end? And are there differences among students, who range from those using academic-support services to high-achievers? A reflections study conducted at New Jersey’s Rowan University in the fall of 2018 aimed to find out. It discovered that the learning priorities of students did change over the course of the semester, and there were few differences among them, regardless of which group they were in. Most students stressed “learning” at the start of the school year as their key priority; and most emphasized “time management balance” at the end of the semester.

The investigators got responses from 116 students who took a required, multidisciplinary introduction-to-engineering course. Their findings were detailed in a paper presented at ASEE’s 2020 Mid-Atlantic Spring Conference in Baltimore last March. It was authored by Kaitlin Mallouk, an assistant professor of experiential engineering education at Rowan, along with four undergraduate students.

Thirty-two of the students studied were members of Rowan’s Engineering Learning Community (ELC), a group of undergraduates who live in common housing and receive support in weekly group meetings as well as access to tutoring. Another 19 were high-achieving honors students. The remaining 65 students didn’t fall into either category. The students at the beginning of the semester were asked to write a reflection on their perception of themselves as learners, based on their previous experiences. At the semester’s end in December, they were asked to repeat the assignment, but this time based on their experiences during the past three months.

In September, 50 percent of the ELC students’ papers indicated “learning” was uppermost in their minds. Eighty-nine percent of the honors students, and 63 percent of the remaining students likewise cited “learning” as their most important theme. By December, however, 41 percent of the ELC students, 42 percent of the honors students and 42 percent of the other students — a plurality of each group — switched to “time management balance” as their overarching theme. A bit more than a third of each group stressed “study” as their second most common theme by semester’s end.

The authors say the results “could be used by faculty to increase student motivation or ease student concerns.” And they suggest further studies should investigate how students’ responses relate to their course results, and could also incorporate focus groups and interviews to get a deeper understand of student thinking. LINK:


Very few future engineering students, no matter how well-versed they are in math and science, have a good working notion of what it means to be an engineer. The study of engineering often involves competitions among multidisciplinary teams who use engineering analysis, simulation and hands-on prototyping to solve a problem that has numerous workable solutions. That can be hard to show to explain to high-schoolers in a classroom environment. In a paper presented at ASEE’s Mid-Atlantic Spring Conference in Baltimore last March, a pair of Johns Hopkins University academics make the case for this solution: a four-to-five-week-long summer class devoted to a competition between teams of students tasked with building a bridge out of spaghetti and glue. The bridge must span 50 centimeters, weigh no more than 250 grams and have a height of less than 25 centimeters. At a minimum, the bridge must be able to hold 3 kilograms of weight.

Engineering Innovation is a survey course Johns Hopkins has been offering to high-school juniors and seniors since 2006; it’s a credit-bearing course offered as a pre-college summer program. So far, 4,651 students have taken the course. The paper was based on 537 students who took the class last year. The students spend 2-3 hours a day in classes for lectures and problem-solving tasks, and 2-3 more hours working on hands-on projects or lab activities. They learn about material properties, forces in a truss, and error analysis, then apply that know-how to constructing their bridges. For instance, they must experimentally determine the material properties of spaghetti, design a truss using a virtual lab, and then prototype and build a bridge. Beyond exposing students to many aspects of engineering, the pasta project allows them to learn how to work on a multidisciplinary team that’s in competition with others. They also learn how to prepare a proposal, get an understanding of financing and debate ethics.

The students — who also are quizzed weekly and take a comprehensive final exam — are also surveyed before they take the course, then asked to evaluate the course once they complete it. Those results are analyzed by an external evaluator. Beforehand, 60.3 percent of the students agreed, or strongly agreed, that they had a good understanding of the breadth of work engineers perform. In the final survey, 89.4 percent of the students had that opinion. There were also increases in the percentage of students who said they felt comfortable working independently, or with just occasional help, on a host of tasks, ranging from using Excel to solve problems to designing and building a structure without a detailed plan. Moreover, the survey found that nearly 70.6 percent of the students felt “more confident” in their abilities to work with diverse, multicultural groups of people. Overall, the paper concludes that the spaghetti bridge competition and Engineering Innovation course “are successful in their attempt to introduce students to engineering.” LINK:



As classrooms and libraries have gone online-only, JSTOR created a bootstrap resource to help faculty find content and organize it for distance teaching, and included a list of pointers they can share with students to help them do research, write, and study from home. There’s also a guide for librarians with content that can be repurposed within a local LibGuides site.


At ASEE’s upcoming Virtual Conference, June 22-26, certain sessions are geared to teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two are presented by the University of Maryland.

The first U-MD session is scheduled for Monday, June 22, 2:30-3:30 p.m.:
M560B·COVID-19 Campus Response - Featuring Engineering and Engineering Technology Deans - Presented by the University of Maryland

The second is scheduled for Tuesday, June 23, 1-2 p.m.: 

T499·Challenges and Potential solutions for engineering education posed by the COVID-19 pandemic Presented by the University of Maryland

On Monday June 22, from 11:00-11:20 a.m., Nikitha Sambamurthy, zyBooks engineering content lead, is giving an overview of the company’s interactive online textbooks. ZyBooks says the talks “will explore methods to incentivize student reading, assign auto-graded homework and coding labs, and track student learning for engineering courses.” More information can be found here: M399· Using zyBooks to Teach in a Covid and post-Covid environment


Webinar: Emerging Insights on Remote Instruction
July 8 at 1 P.M., EDT: This free webinar will share strategies for navigating remote instruction, including insights on synchronous instruction, remote assessments, and managing student projects and collaboration remotely. Register at

Webinar: Emerging Insights on Remote Student Support
July 22 at 2 P.M., EDT: This free webinar will discuss strategies for supporting students remotely, sharing insights on virtual office hours, empathetic syllabi and in-class icebreakers, instructional techniques to support students in class, and additional ways that faculty, staff, and peers can interact to support student success. Register at



A comparison reveals gaps in students’ grasp of technical and social dimensions.

By Andrea Mazzurco and Scott Daniel

In humanitarian engineering (HE) contexts, projects often fail when engineers do not extensively consider the complexities of the social domains of their work, including meaningfully engaging stakeholders. Such projects demand socio-technical thinking, or the ability to integrate social and technical domains of knowledge and practice. This kind of thinking is a challenge to teach, learn, and assess because the literature doesn’t give us a clear understanding of its key features.

Our study sought to provide needed clarity by investigating what distinguishes the socio-technical thinking of an expert in HE from that of a novice. We used the Energy Conversion Playground (ECP) design task, a scenario-based assessment instrument first developed in 2014. We assigned the design task to 26 students starting their engineering degrees and 16 practitioners with extensive experience in HE. The ECP task poses a scenario in which the respondent is partnering with an NGO to develop a low-cost power system to generate electricity for the lights of a primary school in a developing country. Respondents are then asked to list, describe, and justify all the considerations they would take into account to address the problem. The responses were coded using a rubric we developed inductively to serve as our operationalized definition of socio-technical thinking. Three domains of considerations emerged: technology, people, and broader context.

Technology considerations focus on the system itself and fall into three categories: (a) input and constraints, (b) functionality, and (c) long-term technical. Aligning these categories with a linear design process, input and constraints considerations are usually more relevant in the early stages of scoping a project and defining requirements; functionality considerations become more prominent in the conceptual and detailed design stages; and long-term technical considerations are more relevant in the concluding stages. We found that experienced practitioners tended to list considerations across all domains, while students generally omitted long-term technical considerations.

The second domain, people, takes into consideration the stakeholders of the project. This domain reflects a genuine interest in understanding the needs, interests, desires, and expertise of individuals connected to the scenario, including the users, community members, and other stakeholders, and the extent to which their involvement is described. For this domain, we found that experienced practitioners tended to focus on stakeholder consultation and collaboration, whereas students generally viewed people as a constraint to the system.

Like technology, considerations belonging to the broader context domain are organized into three categories: (a) local norms, (b) laws and ethics, and (c) other socio-material contexts. Local norms considerations emphasize the need to understand aspects of the community such as local culture, social dynamics (for instance, gender roles and power structures), and religious views. The laws and ethics dimension consists of considerations focused on both formal and informal legal and ethical issues. The third category of other socio-material contexts addresses local infrastructure, the local economy, the country’s education system, and the environmental impact and sustainability of potential solutions. We found that experienced practitioners not only identified a larger breadth of contextual considerations but also recognized the complexity of these dimensions. Students, however, tended to make comparatively unsophisticated observations. For instance, students might merely mention “local culture” as a factor, whereas experienced practitioners would also consider the power dynamics hidden within the local culture that could prevent some groups from participating in the project.

Our analysis suggests that, in the context of HE, an expert socio-technical thinker considers both short-term and long-term technical issues, attempts to collaborate meaningfully with key stakeholders, and recognizes the complexities of HE project contexts.

Educators can use these results to develop and evaluate HE curricula. Further research is underway to track the development of socio-technical expertise over time and to expand the data set to investigate how different demographic and background variables such as gender, age, and years of experience affect participants’ response to the scenario.


Andrea Mazzurco is a lecturer of engineering education at Swinburne University of Technology. Scott Daniel will soon be a senior lecturer in humanitarian engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney. This article is adapted from “Socio-technical Thinking of Students and Practitioners in the Context of Humanitarian Engineering” in the April 2020 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education.

Image courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory


Job-hunting? Check out scores of openings geared to engineering education on ASEE’s Classifieds Website, including these:

1. Air Force Science & Tech Fellowship Program - 1 opportunity

2. Civil Engineering - 1 opportunity

3. Mechanical Engineering/Engineering Design - 1 opportunity

Visit here for details: http://



The ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion calls members to action. With support provided by the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation, ASEE will:

  • Increase participation by HBCU deans in 2021 ASEE activities such as EDI, PPC, and the Annual Conference.
  • Hold 50 percent of the slots for faculty from Minority Institutions (including HBCUs) to participate in ASEE's new DELTA Institutes for junior faculty, new chairs/heads, and aspiring deans. (See more below).

  • The live ASEE General Body Meeting to be held on Monday, June 22 from 4∶00 PM to 4∶30 PM (Eastern) will be an open forum for discussion of further actions that can be taken by ASEE as an organization and by our individual and institutional members.


In support of the LGBTQ+ community, and in celebration of PRIDE Month, ASEE’s Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is hosting an interactive virtual reception for members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community on Friday, June 19 from 6 P.M. – 7:30 P.M., EDT. Engage in thoughtful conversations, participate in fun activities, and foster relationships with LGBTQ+ and ally friends and colleagues. This event is made possible by the ASEE Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (CDEI) — all are welcome to participate in this event. RSVP at


Notice to readers: As a service to engineering schools conducting online classes due to the coronavirus, we recently created a new Connections section called Remote Teaching Toolbox, a repository of primers and links to online papers, videos and other tools to help engineering educators adapt to teaching virtually. We now plan to make it a regular or semi-regular section. We invite educators to submit short primers or other materials that their colleagues may find helpful in making the pivot to web-based teaching. Please send submissions to


The DELTA Institute for New Faculty, a foundational, instructor-led online program prepares new engineering faculty members to successfully launch their careers. They learn how to navigate their role as a new faculty member and the teaching, scholarship, and service responsibilities of their university and discipline. By the end of this program, they will have the knowledge and tools necessary to help them get their career off the ground. The program takes place in four, two-hour-long sessions. Each session will have extensive facilitator-participant and participant-participant interaction, with ample time for questions and discussions. Dates and times: August 5,12,19 and 26, 2020; 11:00 P.M.-1:00 P,M., EDT. Cost: ASEE Members ($750); Non-members ($850). Details are here.


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