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ASEE Connections

December 2018




In This Issue:

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By Daodao Wang

According to the most recent ASEE Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology Colleges data, 2017, the engineering school graduate enrollment by U.S. states is mostly in line with the populations of top 15 states, except for Massachusetts and Maryland. Coastal states tend to have obvious higher enrollment than inland states, except for Maine, which is one of the states with least enrollment. ASEE didn’t manage to collect data from schools that are in Vermont or Wyoming, though it’s a bit unclear from the plot due to the gap between the top and bottom states.

Figure 1.

Table 1.



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Last month, Marriott’s Starwood hotel chain reported it was the victim of a computer breach of its reservation system that stole the private information of as many as 500 million people. The New York Times reports that government investigators believe Chinese state hackers were the mostly likely culprits. The attack took place over a four-year period, and its scope and tactics led investigators to suspect a national government was behind it. The Washington Post reports that “preliminary indications”link the theft to hackers working for the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS), an intelligence agency said to have been involved in many hacks of sensitive U.S. networks. Some intelligence officials tell the Post that the hack seems part of an ongoing effort over many years by the Chinese to enrich its data sets on U.S. citizens. That effort, it reports, included the 2015 hack into the Office of Personnel Management system that compromised the personal data of more than 20 million government employees, family members and applicants, as well as breaches of the systems of healthcare-providers Anthem and CareFirst. The Marriott attackers were able to garner a wide spectrum of data, including names, addresses, and phone, passport and credit-card numbers, as well as where people traveled and who they traveled with. That kind of information could be used for identity fraud, or to build dossiers and track the movement of diplomats, spies, military personnel, business executives, and journalists, cybersecurity experts told the Post.



California officials want the state’s entire bus fleet to be fully electric by 2040, The Hill newspaper reports. The unanimous decision by the California Air and Resource Board, the first such commitment by a state, will mean acquiring more than 14,000 new zero-emission buses. The move was applauded by several environmental groups, the paper says, including the Union of Concerned Scientists and Earthjustice. Recent climate studies have found that the worst effects of global warming could begin affecting Earth earlier than previously believed, and that few nations are doing enough to curb the rise of greenhouse gas emissions. The Trump White House has dismissed the federal government’s own reports about the seriousness of the problem and has instead been pushing for even greater use of fossil fuels. California, which has some of the worst air pollution in the country, has been in the forefront of a more aggressive approach by states to combat climate change. It was the first state to mandate that new homes be retrofitted with solar panels, and the first to commit to having a 100 percent renewable-energy electric grid by 2045, it says. California also sued the administration over its plans to weaken vehicle-emission standards, hoping to win court approval for the right to implement more stringent regulations.





Engineers are adept at cost-benefit analyses of projects. They should pay more attention to communities that might suffer.

By Debbie Chachra

I didn’t learn about the Union Carbide disaster in an engineering ethics class.

I learned about it while it was happening, on one long, sleepless night in Toronto in 1984 as my parents frantically dialed and dialed again, trying to get an international call through to any of my aunts and uncles in Bhopal, India, to find out if they were all right.

In my October 2017 column, “Not Always a Force for Good,” I wrote about how we need to ask our students to “begin to consider the larger social and environmental consequences of the technologies that they are devising.” In the January 2018 Prism, my fellow Canadian Claude Laguë, an engineering professor at the University of Ottawa, responded to assert that engineers have been aware of their responsibility to people for many generations. That is true. But for most of those generations, the problem has been who they’ve considered to be people—or rather, who they have not considered to be people.

As a Canadian-educated engineer, I swore a solemn obligation during the Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer. It’s often described as the Hippocratic Oath for engineers and was written by Rudyard Kipling in 1922 at the request of a faculty member at my alma mater, the University of Toronto. When I read the obligation now, I’m struck by how it focuses on being an excellent engineer but mostly leaves unanswered the question: “on whose behalf?” In effect, it conflates doing one’s best as an engineer with doing one’s best for society.

The standard questions of value are “what are the benefits?” and “what are the costs?” The goal of the former exceeds that of the latter. But questions of values include “who benefits?” and “who pays the costs?” Generations of engineers have consistently addressed the question of value, but we’re often satisfied with letting the “new-caught sullen peoples” pay the cost, to use a phrase from Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden.” In the Union Carbide disaster, my family was unaffected by the toxic gas leak because the hardest hit were the very poor who lived in shanty towns near the plant. Even engineering projects that have enormous public benefits, such as hydroelectric dams in Quebec and across the western United States, have asked a high price of some people, such as the indigenous communities that were displaced.

These are not abstract or historical concerns. A recent investigation found that IBM has been using secret data from New York police video surveillance to develop facial recognition technology that can identify people by race. This is, to put it mildly, an uncomfortable reminder of IBM’s involvement in the Holocaust. As detailed in a 2001 book by Edwin Black, that involvement included providing and maintaining punch-card machines used to track prisoners, generating the identification numbers tattooed on their skin.

To effectively “make the world a better place,” engineers must develop the considerable empathy needed to see the world from a perspective different from their own. It requires asking questions—and listening to the answers—about who will be affected by new technologies, and how. It also requires absorbing the lessons of history. Learning to exercise one’s moral imagination isn’t like learning to use contour integrals. It takes exposure and practice, until it becomes a part of how you see the world. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to facilitate this practice. We not only teach our undergraduate engineering students over the course of four years, allowing for progressive development, we also teach many of them at a critical time in their lives, as they develop their adult identity. We can help our students develop a profoundly different understanding of engineering ethics, one rooted in a deeper understanding of our paramount responsibility to all people, not just those who are like us.

This is, of course, just the start. As it says in the Talmud, we are not obligated to complete the work, but nor are we free to desist from it.

I still wear my Iron Ring every day. But I do so as a historical reminder to make room for the voices of people we engineers have dismissed or ignored in the past and broaden our definition of what it means to serve the public.


Debbie Chachra is a professor of engineering at Olin College.






A new framework aims to foster entrepreneurial attitudes and boost engineering students’ societal impact.

By Ann F. McKenna, Gary Lichtenstein, Phil Weilerstein and Thema Monroe-White

Globalization and rapid advances in technology have spurred initiatives to prepare engineers to be adaptive, flexible, and forward thinking. Engineering programs around the country urge students to consider the value added by their designs in terms of societal impact, with a focus on developing solutions that meet a range of stakeholder needs. By emphasizing the value and impact of technological solutions, engineering educators can promote an entrepreneurial mindset.

A search of the literature from 1945 to 2017 found 33,451 references to entrepreneurial mindset (EM). Some 70 percent of these studies were published in the past decade and nearly half of these include references to engineering education. Three large-scale national initiatives—tanford University’s Epicenter, the Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network, and the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps)—are examples of efforts to transform engineering education through EM in order to achieve lasting and meaningful impact on society and industry.

While there is increasing consensus that entrepreneurship education is important for engineers, there is also fragmentation with regard to a common language or an organizing framework for situating our disparate activities. To tackle this challenge, Arizona State University and VentureWell convened nearly two dozen participants from 15 institutions and organizations for a two-day symposium designed to stimulate conversations and produce tangible results on three objectives: build a community of researchers and practitioners, define a framework, and identify and measure the EM dimensions within that framework.

As organizers, we had hoped that the workshop would result in a coherent, shared understanding of how to coordinate efforts to teach, study, and practice EM, particularly within engineering programs. One thing we learned is that, at this nascent stage, it is too early to contain the concept within tidy boxes and arrows. Nevertheless, two notable contributions did emerge from the symposium. The first was a framework that organized our thinking into three broad areas: the what, why, and how of EM. Second, the symposium resulted in a special volume of 11 papers on EM, organized by the what, why, and how frameworks, published in the October 2018 Advances in Engineering Education (AEE).

The what of EM reveals challenges in researching and practicing a topic that has multiple definitions and myriad facets. Authors of papers in this section of the AEE special issue wrestle with the multidimensionality of EM, which defies simplification. Taken together, the articles add complexity but at the same time help researchers and practitioners define and identify how their work fits into the multidimensional EM landscape. The next section explores why entrepreneurship education is relevant in engineering schools. What are the value propositions for faculty? What is the value added to students and to industry? Finally, the how section offers several perspectives on teaching and assessing EM. Authors offer proven strategies, including addressing the critical question of how to fit EM into an already stressed engineering curriculum. Not surprisingly, the challenges related to defining EM also confound efforts to assess it.

Here, too, authors offer practical solutions, including an instrument. The what, why, and how EM framework and AEE articles that explore it are a starting point. A core tenet of entrepreneurial mindset is to create value. Creating value often involves taking risks, moving a project ahead without having all the information, keeping an open mind, and iterating with agility based on experience and new data. The AEE special issue exemplifies the EM mentality. We hope the contributions promote readers’ critical reflection, useful insights, and increased clarity about the goals, outcomes, methods, and assessment of entrepreneurial mindset. Such outcomes would move researchers and practitioners incrementally closer to realizing the promise of EM for inspiring graduates to design innovations that enhance engineering work and create extraordinary value for society and industry.


Ann F. McKenna is director of the Polytechnic School and a professor of engineering at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, where Gary Lichtenstein is director of entrepreneurial mindset program effectiveness. Phil Weilerstein is president of VentureWell. Thema Monroe-White is an assistant professor of management at Berry College. Their article was adapted from the Fall 2018 Advances in Engineering Education special issue on entrepreneurial mindset.





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COVER: PARTNERS—Academic and research pairings between major engineering schools and minority serving institutions gain strength and credibility as a way to strengthen the U.S. STEM pipeline.

FEATURE: DEVELOPMENT—The United Kingdom’s space agency applies satellite technologies to solving problems holding back the economies of poor countries.

FEATURE: SMART CITIES—Toronto turns a gritty section of Lake Ontario shorefront into a testbed for an ambitious experiment to reinvent city life.





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.

Two-Part Webinar on Teaching Metacognition - February 2019

How do you teach metacognition to help improve student learning? Join us for a two-part webinar event. Patrick Cunningham (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) and Holly Matusovich (Virginia Tech) offer insights and actionable strategies for talking to and teaching students about metacognitive development. Registration is free for ASEE members! Learn more and register.

THE ASEE Zone 1 Conference will convene April 11–13, 2019 at the Conference & Event Center in Niagara Falls, NY. The conference will be held in partnership with the New York Cyber Security and Engineering Technology Association, and organized by The University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. Co-hosts include the St. Lawrence Section, Middle Atlantic Section, and Northeast Section of the ASEE. The conference will feature current and future trends in engineering and engineering technology education, with topics including, but not limited to, innovation, leadership, entrepreneurship, and the internet of things. The deadline for all paper or presentation abstracts, workshop proposals, or abstracts for student posters or lightning talks has been extended to January 15, 2019. Register here.

Image Courtesy of Niagara Falls USA


The ASEE awards are the Society’s way to publicly recognize excellent work in our field of engineering and engineering technology education, research and practice. ASEE is now accepting nominations for 2019 ASEE Awards. The award winners will be recognized at the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference and Expo in Tampa, Florida in June. Nominators must be ASEE members though membership is not required to be nominated for an award. To submit a nomination, log-in at www.asee.org and click on “Award Nominations.” The deadline to submit all nomination materials is January 15, 2019.


Lisa Benson, a Clemson University professor of engineering and science education and editor of ASEE’s Journal of Engineering Education, is this year’s winner of Clemson’s Class of ‘39 Award for Excellence. Each year, the Class of ‘39 Award goes to one distinguished faculty member whose outstanding contributions over a five-year period have been judged by his or her peers to represent the highest achievement of service to the university, the student body and the larger community.

Image Courtesy of Clemson University




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