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ASEE Connections

November 2018




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By Daodao Wang

Engineering Technology programs awarded more bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 2017 than in the previous year, when bachelor’s degrees totaled 6,981 and master’s degrees 723. As the accompanying graphic shows, the gender gap is narrower at the master’s level than at the bachelor’s (6.31:1 for bachelor’s, 2.75:1 for master’s). Racial and ethnic breakdowns show a slightly higher proportion of African Americans and a lower proportion of Hispanics among master’s degree recipients.

Figure 1. Engineering Technology Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees by Gender, 2017

Figure 2. Engineering Technology Bachelor’s Degrees by Race & Ethnicity, 20171

1 “Foreign” group is removed from this race and ethnicity statistics so only citizens are kept.

Figure 3. Engineering Technology Master’s Degrees by Race & Ethnicity, 2017



II. Teach Students How to Innovate
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III. Stevens Institute of Technology: Taking on the World’s Critical and Emerging Issues.
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Faculty and students at the School of Systems and Enterprises (SSE) at Stevens Institute of Technology are addressing the world's major systems and research issues, including the need for more resilient infrastructure, the advances and benefits of autonomous vehicles and the critical importance of improving healthcare systems. Research at SSE is a dynamic, collaborative interplay between academia, industry and government that fosters intellectual breakthroughs able to be translated and applied to a wide range of real-world initiatives.

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Climate change wasn’t a major topic in the lead up to this month’s midterm elections, but the results will likely affect how the United States grapples with global warming, at least on the state level, the New York Times reports. The results were decidedly mixed. The Times offered five takeaways:

Voters are wary of carbon taxes. Economists see them as a good incentive to push companies to lower emissions of greenhouse gases, but consumers don’t like the idea of paying more for energy. Voters in Washington state turned thumbs down on a ballot proposal that would have instituted the country’s first carbon tax.

Not much is likely to happen at the national level. The House Science Committee will no longer be chaired by Texas Republican and climate skeptic Lamar Smith. The likely new chair will be Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Tex., who has vowed to tackle the challenge of climate change. It’s not likely House Democrats will try to pass a carbon tax, and if they did it would almost certainly die in the Republican-controlled Senate. But, the Times says, House committees will ramp up oversight of the Trump administration’s science and environmental polices and its efforts to roll back regulations. According to the Washington Post, environmentalists want the science committee to investigate energy giant ExxonMobil following reports that Exxon’s researchers determined decades ago that its products were helping to warm the planet.

Quite a bit may happen at the state level. Sixteen states have vowed to uphold the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw, and seven other states may join them. Those states will have new Democratic governors, all of whom have cited global warming as a major problem. Additionally, the incoming governors of Michigan and Wisconsin have promised their states will aim for 100 percent carbon-free electricity production.

Voters gave renewable energy a thumbs up . . . and a thumbs down. Nevada voters overwhelmingly ok’d a ballot measure to force state utilities to get half their power from green sources by 2030, up from around 25 percent today. But in neighboring Arizona, a similar measure, which was strongly opposed by the state’s largest power company, was decidedly rejected by voters. As the Times notes, polls show Americans strongly approve of renewable energy, but big-money opponents can make the politics difficult.



New enrollment by foreign students at U.S. universities fell by 6.6 percent in the 2017–2018 school year, double the previous year’s decline, according to the latest annual Open Doors Report from the Institute of International Education. While the total number of international students in the country showed a 1.5 percent increase over the previous year, that gain came mainly from greater participation in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows foreign students to remain in the U.S. after they graduate to practice their skills for up to 12 to 36 months. OPT participation grew by 15.8 percent, the nonprofit institute says. Figures for new enrollment this fall show another decrease—1.5 percent—in the number of international students. Institutions surveyed attributed the latest decline to “problems with visa delays and denials (83 percent), the U.S. social and political climate (60 percent), and student decisions to enroll in another country (59 percent).” IIE President Allan E. Goodman told the Washington Post: “In this very sophisticated, very competitive market, for the first time we have real competition.”





Well-educated graduates don’t need to be told what magazine to buy.

By Henry Petroski

A former provost of my university was fond of describing the ideal graduate of our college of arts and sciences as one who regularly read the American Scholar, Scientific American, and the Economist. It was not a final assignment for seniors to subscribe to these publications but a way of saying that an education did not end with a diploma.

I was reminded of this recently when I received an invitation to subscribe to the Economist. As has become common with such solicitations, the package included a brochure touting the features of the magazine and included endorsements from thought leaders. The one that caught my eye was from Larry Ellison, cofounder and chief technology officer of Oracle, the multinational computer technology corporation. His blurb reads in full, “I used to think. Now I just read the Economist.

I doubt this is what my provost had in mind. Reading any current publication should not be a substitute for thinking. Rather, it should be a supplement to what we learned in school, a source of updating information and opinion, a stimulant to thinking.

My provost’s list of magazines was surely meant to be not prescriptive or exclusive but representative of how our alums could keep up with intellectual developments in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. For example, his list might just as easily have included American Scientist, published by Sigma Xi, the scientific and engineering honor society, which was founded as the scientific counterpart of Phi Beta Kappa, publisher of the American Scholar. (In the interests of full disclosure, I write the Engineering column in American Scientist.)

The “science slot” might also have been filled by M.I.T.’s Technology Review, which would have at least implicitly recognized engineering as something the educated person today should consider on a par with the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Indeed, that is exactly what the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation had promoted with its New Liberal Arts Program.

But, as engineering educators know all too well, after about a half century of effort, engineering has not yet been fully integrated into college curricula. And this is in spite of the fact that engineering and its principal fruit, technology, are what drive and characterize our high-tech age. But we also know that when it comes to the big picture, academic change can move very slowly indeed.

Fortunately, there are publications of the kind, if not the exact ones that my provost advocated, that do enable college graduates—liberal arts majors, social scientists, biological and physical scientists, and of course engineers—to keep up with developments in their field and put them in the context of developments in the world. It is no longer—if it ever has been—sufficient to end an education after four years. A person who did so would be at risk of soon becoming obsolete or redundant in the workplace and woefully uninformed as a citizen.

While I do believe my provost had the correct idea, there should be no need to make explicit lists of magazines for post-graduate reading. If we instill in our students an appreciation for learning and reading not as a substitute but as a stimulant for thinking, they should naturally come to subscribing to and reading publications that best enable them to carry on almost painlessly their own form of lifelong learning.

Of course, today the concept of publication has taken on broader meanings than traditional magazines and newspapers, and we must also allow that a list of websites, blogs, and other digital forms of information may serve the same purpose. But regardless of what form the sources of their information may take, we should never want to see those we claim to have educated use reading as a substitute for thinking.


Henry Petroski is A.?S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and professor of history at Duke. His latest book is The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure.






Interdisciplinary approaches and biosensors can help measure student engagement.

By Idalis Villanueva, Brett Campbell, Adam Raikes, Suzanne Jones and LeAnn Putney

As engineering educators, we recognize the importance of—and need for—incorporating theories into instructional practice. But how do we measure what is occurring in the classroom in a way that can inform near-term adjustments?

Traditionally, metrics based on survey, performance, and observation data are used to understand students’ experiences in the classroom. While valuable, these data sources must be collected over long periods, during which more contextual information on the “how” and “now” are lost. Without a more holistic understanding of classroom experiences as engineering students take part in them, we risk losing valuable information that can shape future pedagogical and motivational approaches for engineering education.

Our study sought to explore how multimodal and interdisciplinary approaches might provide such real-time insights by examining an engineering design classroom across a semester. We used a combination of online surveys on emotions and electrodermal activity (EDA) wrist sensors across five engineering design workshops. Eighteen students out of a participant pool of 58 students in an engineering course agreed to wear a noninvasive EDA sensor that recorded their biometric skin conductance during class. The EDA data were sampled at 4Hz (taken every quarter second), providing a deeper look into student engagement in the classroom. When paired with a topic emotions survey, these biometric data were used to identify potential correlations between reported and physical responses—akin to a lie detector for engagement.

Findings from the semester’s first challenge suggest that in introducing design topics, for example around generating ideas to solve an engineering problem, negative emotions such as anger had a significant inverse correlation to EDA. The effect was minimized as students progressed through each class and across the semester.

This points to the importance of considering classroom strategies that will help students manage any negative emotions they may experience when facing a new class or topic. Furthermore, our data indicate that student-led activities generate higher engagement than those led by the instructor. Together, these findings point to the need to understand the real-time effects of teaching pedagogies and strategies in helping students emotionally and mentally cope with complex topics such as those found in engineering.

We recommend that engineering educators begin to think of ways to facilitate more real-time engagement in their classrooms with purposeful motivational outcomes. Based on our work, reducing the role of anticipatory responses due to other factors (e.g., uncertainty, newness to a topic) can help students engage more with the course topics. Specifically, educators can do more to explain the rationale behind design topics, explicitly state the motivation for course topics, and clarify any expectations for engaging in student-led individual and collective activities.

Moreover, it will be important for engineering educators to understand the effectiveness of their preferred choice of instruction (e.g., lecture, active learning) for engaging students in a course topic. For this, educators can pre-assess students’ preferred activity types early and throughout the semester to inform classroom strategies to achieve intended learning outcomes. Further research may demonstrate how different educational contexts and course topics in engineering can influence students’ engagement.


Idalis Villanueva is an assistant professor of engineering education and adjunct professor of biological engineering at Utah State University. Brett Campbell is an associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. Adam Raikes is a postdoctoral research associate at Arizona State University’s College of Medicine. Suzanne Jones is an associate professor in the department of teacher education and leadership at Utah State University. LeAnn Putney is professor and chair of the department of educational psychology and higher education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This article is excerpted from “A Multi-Modal Exploration of Engineering Students’ Emotions and Electrodermal Activity in Design Activities” in the July 2018 Journal of Engineering Education.





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COVER: HONEYBEES—Bee brains are very small, yet very efficient (and their flight mechanics are pretty interesting, too). As such, they’re an inspiration to engineers and scientists working on a host of technologies, particularly autonomous drones. We focus on a large U.K. drone project that’s reverse-engineering the neural circuits of honeybees to duplicate their navigational skills.

FEATURE: HULLS—Using physics, computing and biology, engineers are designing ship hulls that are faster and stronger.

FEATURE: AI—As demand for courses in artificial intelligence grows, schools begin to launch full-fledged AI majors.





The 2019 Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) conference will be held April 14–17, 2019, at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Crystal City, Va. (future site of Amazon’s HQ2). ASEE members qualify for a discount.

Click here to register today. Click here to find out more about CoNECD.




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