ASEE Connections
January 2015 Subscribe
In This Issue: Products & Programs

NCEES Subject Matter Reports distributed to all ABET-accredited programs

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ASEE's Exclusive New "Engineering Education Suppliers Guide"
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Trends in Engineering Technology Bachelor’s Degrees

ASEE collects data from Engineering Technology schools, programs and departments that have ABET accreditation and award bachelor’s degrees. This month’s Databyte looks at bachelor’s degrees awarded by Engineering Technology disciplines. As the table above shows, Industrial Engineering Technology has exhibited the largest growth, with a 48 percent increase in bachelor’s degrees from 2008 to 2013. With the exception of Computer Engineering and Construction Engineering Technology, decreasing by 11 percent and 4 percent, respectively, there has been a steady increase in Engineering Technology bachelor’s degrees from 2008 to 2013.






Line-by-line spending bills will be harder to enact in the coming year, even though Republicans control both House and Senate, CQ reports. The 2013 budget accord, which paved the way for appropriations in FY 14 and 15, is no longer in effect. Those measures allowed R&D spending for the most part to remain stable, if not increase. Now, lawmakers face a return of the stringent caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011: Defense can rise by only $1.7 billion to $523 billion; nondefense spending will drop by $100 million to $492.4 billion. Unless these caps are adhered to, "the meat axe known as sequestration" goes into effect. "There is pressure from many Republicans to increase defense spending" beyond the caps. Democrats, whose votes will be needed in the Senate, "will insist on equal boosts for nondefense spending," according to CQ. Nevertheless, the GOP chairs of House and Senate armed services committees are opposed to the across-the-board cuts that would occur if Congress fails to reach a budget agreement. "I'm pretty much open to any solution that would fix sequestration," House committee chair Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) says. Politico interprets the statement as meaning Thornberry is not ruling out a tax hike if needed to pull off a budget deal. The panel's top Democrat, Adam Smith of Washington, has "vocally advocated for the repeal of sequestration," CQ reports. Senate Armed Services chair John McCain (R-Ariz.) "is also a critic of sequestration cuts to the military." He won't get any argument from the White House. Bloomberg reports that President Obama will propose a 7 percent budget increase, with defense and nondefense sectors each getting about $34 billion more than allowed by the BCA caps.


Federal research agencies could have up to $21 million to spend on "windstorm impact reduction" under the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization (H.R. 23), one of the first bills to pass in the new House session. The version that passed in the last session (it was stalled in the Senate) would also fund research by the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including engineering and atmospheric research "to improve the understanding of the behavior of windstorms and the impact on buildings, structures, and lifelines, and research in the economic and social factors influencing windstorm risk reduction measures."


The panel will be led by chair Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), an accountant who fought off a primary challenge by Liz Cheney last year, and Vermont socialist Bernard Sanders, the ranking Democrat. CQ has dubbed them the Odd Couple. Despite their poles-apart views, both are seen as serious legislators. Quips Sen. Mark Warner, (D-VA.): “It won’t be dull.”


Reintroduced bipartisan Senate legislation would, say its sponsors, increase access to green cards for high-skilled workers by "expanding the exemptions and eliminating the annual per-country limits for employment-based green cards." It also allows the number of H1-B visas to grow "depending on the demands of the economy," lifting the current 20,000 cap on advanced-degree exemptions. Fees could be used to "promote American worker training and education." The Association of American Universities reports that the bill "contains a number of provisions AAU has advocated."





A Michigan professor is intent on making sure students understand and remember what they’re taught.

By Thomas K. Grose

Father Guido Sarducci – the character played by comedian Don Novello on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s – got some of his biggest laughs with a plan for a Five Minute University. Five years after they leave college, Sarducci noted, most graduates can only remember about five minutes’ worth of all the facts they crammed into their crania to pass exams, so why not cut to the chase? This riff on higher education still makes Steven Yalisove chuckle, but he knows it contains a measure of truth. A professor of materials science engineering at the University of Michigan, Yalisove, 59, is out to change classroom teaching. He has designed a regimen to help students learn, comprehend, and retain functional knowledge, instead of memorizing quickly forgotten facts. He has mostly eliminated lectures, relying on peer instruction and allowing students to learn from failures, and has all but ditched traditional exams. “Exams are a terrible way to see if someone has learned anything,” he sniffs.

Yalisove’s eagerness to find effective approaches dates at least to 1996, when he learned about Harvard physicist Eric Mazur’s pioneering use of electronic clickers and Q-and-A’s to gauge how well students understood concepts they were taught. Mazur is a champion of peer instruction, which holds that students who have only just grasped a concept are best able to teach it to their fellow students. Yalisove adopted clickers but stopped using them after just one year. “They got in the way of my lectures” – or so he thought. In fact, “it was actually my lectures that were getting in the way of the clickers.”

That epiphany came in 2012. Yalisove began an experiment in Introduction to Materials and Manufacturing. On Mondays and Fridays, his students got a traditional lecture. But on Wednesdays, he exchanged his lectern for active learning and peer teaching. He pegged some exam questions to material covered only on Wednesdays. And his students scored 10 to 19 points higher on those questions. Yalisove and Mazur – who both research the effects of ultrafast lasers on materials – met at a conference later that year, and Yalisove grabbed the chance to investigate Mazur’s latest teaching techniques. He was sold. Back at Michigan, Yalisove redesigned his intro course using methods largely based on Mazur’s.

Yalisove’s approach – which he debuted in fall 2013 – basically flips the flipped-classroom teaching concept. In flipped classrooms, students watch video lectures beforehand and spend class time working on homework. Yalisove nixed that formula. It’s extremely hard to learn from video, he says, if it’s the first introduction to material. Instead, he assigns students to read a section in their text using MIT-designed software that allows them to highlight and make comments that both their instructor and fellow students can read. Yalisove grades students on the quality and timeliness of their comments, indications that they have thoroughly read the text.

In class, Yalisove employs clicker-based quizzes to find out how much students actually learned from the text. Sometimes, if it’s clear they haven’t grasped a concept despite valiant efforts, and they’re frustrated, “then a short lecture can be very useful.” But he keeps it to about 10 minutes. He also assigns difficult homework guaranteed to stump his students. When they return to class, he has them work in teams using whiteboards to try to solve the homework problems. Three instructional aides – undergrads who took the course the previous year and are essentially the students’ peers – advise the teams. After each assignment, students write a “reflection” on their experience, and they’re graded on their effort, not their results.

The only exams he uses are “readiness assurance assessments,” very tough, clicker-based tests of 15 to 20 questions. After answering the questions individually, students retake the same exam, but this time in teams using open books and whiteboards. Their exam grades are the average of their individual and team scores. Additionally, the students work on three group projects that are also graded. “Students find this grading system immensely fair,” Yalisove says. His teaching methods won him a 2014 Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize. More important, they may instill knowledge that students won’t quickly forget.






An interactive portal reveals the state of knowledge and connections among engineering education researchers.

By Krishna Madhavan, Aditya Johri, Hanjun Xian, G. Alan Wang and Xiamo Liu

As academic communities grow, they undertake more research, attracting increasingly higher numbers of researchers and practitioners who are interested in that field. The digitization of academic research and a significant amount of federal funding via the National Science Foundation and other entities both accelerate the growth of knowledge. Over time, it becomes hard to know what is known and what combination of processes and people resulted in that knowledge. The engineering education community has reached a stage where these problems of growth are becoming apparent.

Given the vibrant state of engineering education as a field, we have designed a prototype of an online portal that allows community members to quickly learn what is known (what research has been done), who are the primary members and what expertise they have, and how community members are connected to one another. This information, we believe, can assist newcomers and established members alike to get a good sense of the community’s knowledge and allow them to make new connections and move into new research directions. The prototype is called Interactive Knowledge Networks for Engineering Education Research (iKNEER) and is available online at

Our approach relies on many of the technologies, tools, and data that fall under the umbrella of “big data analytics.” The digitization of information has allowed us to leverage data sets such as publishing records, proposal information, and related data sources. Using these, we have been able to create the initial framework for an ecosystem where metadata about publications in journals, conferences, and other forms are readily available. We have built this ecosystem on top of a technical layer of open-source products that allows us to serve this information to a large number of users. Finally, we have incorporated useful information representation techniques to provide easy-to-use interactive visualizations. This infrastructure, in addition to assisting users, allows us to undertake novel research on computational and information science-related topics.

We have been motivated by two elements of research practice that we wanted to support. First, we wanted community members to learn quickly about research that has been done within the community. We call these epistemic practices. To support these practices, we have implemented tools and techniques such as “topic modeling” that allow us to understand what topics have been addressed and how these have changed over time. The second practice we wanted to support was relational understanding of the community. It is important to know who knows what in order to build collaborative relationships. We have supported this by allowing users to visually analyze who is connected to whom as co-author and the other researchers connected to the co-authors (that is, multiple ties). Finally, we also allow dynamic visualizations so that users can understand changes over time. For instance, we developed a visualization of the Frontiers in Education conference over a decade (

Overall, by providing an online portal that allows members of the engineering education community to learn more about the knowledge within their community and the knowledge creators and users, we hope to be able to support the community in the generation of new knowledge as well as its application. The iKNEER prototype has already led to research and development of a much larger and scaled-up system for portfolio analysis known as Deep Insights Anytime, Anywhere (DIA2). An alpha version of DIA2 can be found at We encourage community members to explore the portal and provide us feedback.

Krishna Madhavan is an assistant professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Aditya Johri is associate professor and chair in the Department of Applied Information Technology in the Volgenau School of Engineering, George Mason University. Hanjun Xian is a research software design engineer with the Bing Data Mining team at Microsoft. G. Alan Wang is an associate professor in the Department of Business Information Technology, Pamplin College of Business, at Virginia Tech. Xiaomo Liu is a research scientist at Thomson Reuters R&D.



V. NCEES Subject Matter Reports distributed to all ABET-accredited programs
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The annual event off the Engineering Deans Council brings deans together in Washington D.C. with policymakers, members of Congress and their staffs, and leaders of research agencies.


The section annually recognizes an outstanding engineering or engineering technology educator from the section with a Distinguished Teaching Award. This individual is then nominated by the section for ASEE's National Outstanding Teaching Medal. The section award, presented at the spring meeting, consists of a $500 honorarium and a certificate of recognition. The awards chair is Paul Butler (



Leaders at NSF and the Navy Discuss the Future of Engineering

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.







ADVANCED BIOMANUFACTURING: A new engineering discipline looks ahead to the manufacture of personalized organs for testing or replacement.


Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Institute For Regenerative Medicine


WOMEN: Several enterprising engineering schools have figured out how to lift the number of female graduate beyond typical 20 percent.


SEATTLE: The Emerald City, birthplace of Starbucks and high-tech startups, prepares to welcome ASEE’s Annual Conference with the Space Needle, Chihuly glass, original cuisine, and more.

Read last month's issue of Prism magazine





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