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ASEE Connections

April 2017




In This Issue:

Products & Programs

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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.
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ASEE's Interactive Conference Planner for the 124th Annual Conference & Exposition
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This month’s Databyte focuses on non-tenured teaching and research faculty from 2011-2015. For each category, research and teaching, there is a split between full-time and part-time. Overall, there was growth in every category from 2006-2015. There were higher numbers of research faculty than teaching faculty, both part-time and full-time. The growth in non-tenured research faculty was higher than that of non-tenured teaching. There were almost twice as many part-time non-tenured teaching faculty as full-time non-tenured teaching faculty. Source: ASEE’s annual survey, Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology Colleges





Are you seeing less spam in your email inbox? It could be because the Russian mastermind that federal authorities say is behind a massive global spam operation was arrested earlier this month while on vacation in Spain. The New York Times reports that Peter Levashov, AKA Peter Severa, of Saint Petersburg, Russia, was named in an unsealed indictment as head of the spam operation, and was also accused of committing stock fraud. U.S. agents have chased after Levashov for more than a decade, but efforts to arrest him were previously thwarted by Russian officials. The U.S. says Levashov ran a network of virus-infected computers to send out spam emails. These emails often advertised counterfeit pharmaceuticals, particularly drugs to treat erectile dysfunction, the Times reports. The indictment also says he rented out his network to cybercriminals who used it to send ransomware viruses that infect computers and smartphones. Levashov was finally nabbed when he and his family vacationed in Barcelona. He was arrested by Spanish police and is now awaiting extradition to the United States. Meanwhile, the FBI worked with some cybersecurity companies to pull the plug on his computer network. Intelligence officials, knocking down previous press reports, told the Times that Levashov had not played a role in Russia’s election-tampering efforts.


President Trump campaigned on a promise to build a wall along America’s border with Mexico, and said he’d get Mexico to pay for it. Mexico has declined. The president is now asking Congress to foot the bill, which could come to $21 billion. It’s not at all certain Congress will pony up the funds. But just in case money for its construction materializes, an environmental group has already sued the administration over the proposed wall, saying it would violate environmental law. According to The Hill newspaper, the Center for Biological Diversity, along with Rep. Raul Graijalva, D-Ariz., filed the suit earlier this month. It claims that the Department of Homeland Security is required to conduct a new environmental review of the effects of the wall and other border enforcement efforts. Trump signed an executive order in January to begin construction of the wall, but this is the first lawsuit aiming to stop it. It probably won’t be the last. CNN did an analysis of the last effort by the government to seize land to build a border fence. If found that the land seizure needed to build the wall will likely kick off years of legal fights, which will cost millions of tax dollars and delay the start of any construction.




Technology's Better Angels

Today’s advances offer the means to enrich humanity. Let’s encourage students to use them.

By Vivek Wadhwa

My most disappointing moments after joining Duke’s engineering school in 2004 came in seeing our graduates join investment banks or management consultancies. Instead of solving important engineering problems, they chose to engineer our financial system, which I considered a waste of talent. We teach our students core technologies, but do not give them the vision to change the world. So when Carnegie Mellon’s engineering dean, James Garrett, offered me the opportunity to teach students how to use technology to solve humanity’s grand challenges and build billion-dollar businesses by helping a billion people, I jumped on it.

A decade ago, it would have seemed wishful thinking to say that students could effect change on such a scale. It was only governments and big research labs that could solve grand challenges’and they required big grants and budgets. But that is no longer the case; the cost of building world-changing innovations has fallen so low that motivated graduates can do it.

These young dreamers can build technologies that solve the problems of health, food, energy, and education. They can help take us into a world in which we worry more about sharing prosperity than fighting each other over what little we have. Since they don’t know what isn’t possible, our students have fewer constraints.

Witness the thresholds we have already crossed with Moore’s Law, the observation that the computing power of a chip doubles every couple of years. Our smartphones are many times faster than the supercomputers of yesteryear and, by 2023, will exceed the computing power and storage capacity of a human brain. Faster computers are now being used to design even faster computers and, along with the information technology that they enable, are absorbing other fields. So we are seeing exponential advances in technologies such as sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, and genomics. And their convergence is making amazing things possible.

Cheap sensors and networks, for example, are enabling a web of connected devices we call the Internet of Things. Besides making our homes more energy efficient and tracking our bodies’ rhythms, this web of sensors enables the automation of manufacturing, the creation of smart grids and cities, and a revolution in agriculture.

The same technologies allow us to transform health care. Now that the human genome has been mapped into bits, it has itself become an information technology. We can use artificial intelligence to learn how the environment, food we eat, and medicines we take affect the complex interplay between our genes and our organisms. With CRISPR-Cas 9, which makes it possible to edit genes, we can engineer cures for diseases.

The combination of sensors, artificial intelligence, and computers enables robots to do the work of humans’to assemble electronics, drive cars, and look after the elderly. Digital tutors can take students into virtual-reality worlds and teach them engineering, mathematics, language, and world history.

We have seen technology start-ups such as Facebook, Google, Tesla, and Uber transform industries beyond their own. Facebook has not only changed the way we socialize but has also disrupted telecommunications with its Messenger and communications applications. Google, having graduated from search algorithms to home-monitoring devices and personal assistants, is working on providing global Internet services, via balloons, and life extension, via DNA analysis. Tesla is transforming not only transportation but also solar and energy storage. Uber is looking to add delivery services and medical care.

These technologies all have a dark side and can be used in destructive ways. Just as we can edit disease, we can create killer viruses and alter the human germ line. Just as robots can nurse the elderly, they can become killing machines. That is why we need people with good values and ethics leading the way. We need innovators who care about enriching humanity rather than just themselves. We need people who give back to the world and make it a better place. Doesn’t this remind you of the students we teach’who aren’t yet polluted by the corruption of our investment banks and big business? They are our future, and that is why I want to inspire and enable them.


Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow and adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering’s Silicon Valley campus. His book, The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future, will be published in April.




What Turns an Engineering Student into a Leader?

Courses that focus on professional skills may have the greatest effect.

By David B. Knight and Brian J. Novoselich

Leadership is important for advancing both the field of engineering and the careers of individuals. With increasingly complex problems embedded within an expanding technology-driven environment, there is a greater need for individuals who have technical expertise and who are capable of developing sustainable, workable solutions to serve in leadership positions. Despite calls to develop engineering students’ leadership abilities, however, we know fairly little about the influences on this learning outcome. The purpose of our research was to better understand how undergraduate engineering experiences relate to engineering students’ leadership skills.

Our study drew on a nationally representative dataset that included responses from 5,076 students in 150 undergraduate engineering programs at 31 institutions. Theoretically grounded by Terenzini’s and Reason’s college impacts framework, we investigated how students’ self-reported leadership skills related to their precollege characteristics and academic experiences, university experiences, and undergraduate engineering program contexts. Using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), we related a suite of independent variables to a Leadership Skills outcome scale variable that operationalized leadership as a process by which an individual seeks to influence a group to achieve a common goal.

Independent variables included students’ personal and precollege academic characteristics (gender, race/ethnicity, class standing, first generation status, SAT composite score), students’ reports of the kinds of knowledge and skills emphasized in their engineering curricula, the instructional methods they experienced, and their engagement in co-curricular activities both related to engineering and outside of engineering. To account for program-level differences in the model, we calculated program-level averages for each variable and also accounted for engineering discipline.

Our results indicate that multiple facets of the undergraduate experience relate to engineering students’ self-reported leadership skills, and that students arrive at college with relatively equal potential for leadership development when considering our suite of precollege characteristics. Curricular emphases exhibited stronger relationships with leadership skills than instructional methods and students’ engagement in co-curricular activities. At the individual course level, leadership skills were higher when curricula emphasized core engineering thinking, broad and systems perspectives, and professional skills. An emphasis on core engineering thinking may promote students’ technical proficiency, which thereby enables them to influence others. A broad and systems perspective, emphasizing how students should consider interdisciplinary and contextual factors when solving problems, aligns with the skills model of leadership. These curricular emphases, along with an emphasis on professional skills (including leadership explicitly), may make leadership concepts more concrete for students and also increase their self-perceptions of leadership skills.

We found no significant relationships between program-level variables and students’ leadership skills. This finding may indicate a lack of formal leadership development within the undergraduate engineering curriculum at large.

We also found that students’ involvement in the co-curricular activities of engineering internships, non-engineering organizations/clubs, and non-engineering community service all related to students’ leadership skills. Faculty members and administrators should not assume that these co-curricular experiences should be the primary avenues for fostering the development of students’ leadership skills, however, because educators cannot guarantee that all students will engage in those experiences. For programs desiring increases in leadership skills for their engineering students, especially in a resource-constrained environment that reduces the availability of co-curricular activities, our research suggests that purposeful focus on professional skills in many courses in the curriculum could have the greatest effect for most students.

Although our research advances the study of leadership within undergraduate engineering, we recommend similar future investigations that consider a variety of kinds of leadership. With organizations calling for engineers to understand the principles of leadership so that they may serve in societal leadership roles, understanding student experiences that promote the development of other forms of leadership will provide necessary additional insights to undergraduate engineering programs that seek to develop those kinds of leaders.


David B. Knight is an assistant professor and director of International Engagement in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, and Brian J. Novoselich is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the United States Military Academy. This article is excerpted from "Curricular and Co-Curricular Influences on Undergraduate Engineering Student Leadership" in the January 2017 Journal of Engineering Education, based on work supported by the National Science Foundation Grant 0550608.




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: EXPANSION—Seeing enrollment and demand from industry grow, dozens of engineering colleges are undergoing or planning major expansions in facilities, enrollment, and faculty.

FEATURE: MEXICO—Despite political strains between the United States and Mexico, cross-border research collaboration is thriving.

FEATURE: EARLY ALERTS—By analyzing data on everything from attendance to grades to office-hour visits, university early-alert systems seek to identify and support at-risk students long before they tumble.





A professor of chemical engineering and chair of experiential engineering education at Rowan University, Stephanie Farrell is a Fellow of ASEE and has received the society's Robert G. Quinn Award and National Outstanding Teaching Award. She was a 2014-2015 Fulbright Scholar in Engineering Education at the Dublin Institute of Technology. Before joining Rowan, she was a faculty member at Louisiana Tech University. See the ASEE press release.


The forum will be held on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 on the final day of ASEE’s Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio. The event brings together engineering professionals from academia and industry from around the globe who are engaged in novel engineering education initiatives to share information on successful models, experiences and best practices. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Martin E. Vigild, president of the European Society for Engineering Education.

Click here for more information.


The ASEE Chairs Conclave, will be held in conjunction with the ASEE Annual Conference in June in Columbus, Ohio. It’s an exclusive forum for engineering and engineering technology chairs to exchange ideas, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. This year’s conclave, on June 25, 2017, is focused on supporting faculty success. Topics addressed include:

  • a) developing leadership skills,
  • b) conducting research evaluations,
  • c) having difficult conversations, and
  • d) acclimating new faculty.

Don’t miss out on this unique professional development and networking opportunity. Registration for this full-day event is $200. More detailed information can be found here.


Click here for information and to register.




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