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ASEE Connections

April 2018




In This Issue:

Products & Programs

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ASEE's Exclusive New "Engineering Education Suppliers Guide"
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By Daodao Wang

In March’s databyte we looked at high school graduates and the degrees awarded in engineering disciplines since 2006 and made projections to compare the two numbers in the next 10 years. In this month’s databyte we project the growth of women pursuing an undergraduate engineering degree.

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) provides the high school graduate data from 2002 and projections through 2031 for research purposes. ASEE’s Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology Colleges survey tracks the number of full-time engineering freshman students, and we estimate that each year 87 percent of engineering students enrolled as freshmen are first-time full time students1. According to Profiles data, female participation in undergraduate engineering has increased from 16.62 percent in 2006 to 22.27 percent in 2016. If we assume that female undergraduate engineering participation continues to grow at the same rate, we estimate that by the year 2028 women will make up 31.42% of all incoming first-time full time students entering an engineering degree program as freshmen.

The enrollment gap between female and male students in undergraduate engineering decreased by around 17 percent, down from 66.76 percent in 2006 to 55.46 percent in 2016. If our projection is correct, the gap will continue to shrink to 37.16 percent in 2028.


1 Please refer to ASEE Retention Survey White Paper at: http://aeir.asee.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/2017-Engineering-by-the-Numbers-3.pdf

Table 1. First-time, Full Time Freshmen Enrollment in Engineering and High School Graduates by Gender, 2006–2028 (projection)

Figure1. First-time, Full time Freshmen Enrollment in Engineering by Gender, 2006–2028 (projection)




II. Is Your University Working on Projects That Involve Model-Based Development and Mechatronics?
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The demand for mechatronics engineers is huge across the global manufacturing market. Today’s modern world offers a broad range of products that incorporate software and electronics components, making mechatronic product development a hot commodity.

Most technology-based universities now offer degrees in mechatronics engineering. These programs embrace application projects that fuse mechanical, electronic, computer, systems and control engineering disciplines.

Some examples of the kinds of mechatronic projects engineering students are working on right now at universities around the globe include: Components for hybrid and electric vehicles, robotic systems, driver assistance systems, green technology, electric motors and drives, medical devices, etc.

If your university is working on a project that involves model-based development and mechatronics, you should consider Advanced Control Education (ACE) Kits available through dSPACE.

ACE Kits are combined packages of high-performance hardware and software tools for developing and testing mechatronic control systems in classrooms and research projects.

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With an ACE Kit, you can introduce your students to the latest development tools and methods that are being used by real-world industry.

To request more information on exclusive offers for academia, click here.





Many of Scott Pruitt’s efforts to roll back Environmental Protection Agency regulations have been so hasty and poorly crafted that they are unlikely to withstand court challenges, according to experts cited by the New York Times. Already, the Times notes, the courts have struck down six of the EPA administrator’s moves to dismantle or delay regulations on issues ranging from pesticides to lead paint. Pruitt’s biggest effort has been to undo automobile emission standards imposed by the Obama administration that would double the average fuel economy of passenger cars to 54.5 m.p.h. by 2025. His legal case for the rollback, experts tell the Times, was a mere 38 pages long, contained hardly any supporting legal, scientific or technical data, and mostly regurgitated auto industry complaints that the new rules are onerous. The Obama EPA’s document justifying the regulations ran 1,217 pages and was stuffed with technical, scientific and economic analyses. Experts say the courts aren’t likely to be impressed. “As a scientist who’s worked on those issues, I’m saying ‘Where are the numbers? Where’s the data?’” John M. DeCicco, a professor of engineering and public policy at the University of Michigan, tells the Times. Slate magazine’s Mark Joseph Stern writes that “Pruitt’s effectiveness has been vastly overstated” and that efforts to weaken environmental rules will start to draw more scrutiny.



The online mega-retailer Amazon recently came under attack from President Trump, who claimed it doesn’t pay enough in state taxes, is putting local businesses and shopping malls out of business, and is ripping off the U.S. Postal Service. Jeff Bezos, the billionaire owner of Amazon, also owns the Washington Post, a paper that the president thinks is too critical of him and his administration. But even as Trump criticizes the e-commerce giant, the Defense Department is apparently close to handing it a multibillion-dollar cloud-computing contract, according to The Hill newspaper. The DOD has indicated it will ask a single company to set up its cloud-computing system, and indications are it’s leaning toward Amazon, the paper says. Rival companies claim that the bidding process has been biased toward Amazon, and the Bloomberg news service reports that Oracle’s co-CEO, Safra Catz, complained about it during a recent private dinner with Trump. But, Bloomberg adds, Trump didn’t indicate a willingness to intervene, despite his antipathy toward Amazon. And, The Hill says, the White House press office also pointed out that the DOD contract is not the president’s concern. “The president is not involved in the process. The DOD runs a competitive bidding process.”





What will we do when machines do everything?

By Aditya Johri

On a recent research trip to India I fell into conversation with the owner of a small shop whose primary business was serving mobile phone customers. In a country where most customers pay as they go for their mobile phone use, he helps customers pick from among dozens of available plans while also selling handsets. I was in India collecting data for a study on how mobile technology is allowing people without bank accounts to become a part of the formal financial system. Access to banks is something we often take for granted in the West, but a majority of the world’s population is still unbanked. This means people are deprived of regular savings, credit at competitive rates, and an easy mechanism to transfer money. It costs more for the unbanked—who are poorer to begin with—to obtain credit and send money to others.

Until lately, the shop owner was an important intermediary in the same mobile ecosystem that affords his unbanked customers a modest boost in their financial clout. But when I asked how technology was changing his business, he said digitization, especially online transactions, had increased the use of mobile phones overall but had actually harmed his livelihood. Customers could now directly recharge their phones online, without using him as the middle man. The more comfortable they became with online transactions, the less they came to his shop. Increasingly, he said, digitization and online transactions were hurting small-business owners, cutting revenues for many of them by up to 50 percent. “If I don’t do this,” he said, “what will I do?”

His question captures the essential dilemma of a world that is digitizing at such an exponential pace that even people, like the shop owner, with a niche in the technology industry see a threat to their jobs. What will happen when a lot of what people do now is done by machines (in some form or another)? Many scholars and strategists see this problem as one of technological development taking its natural course and argue that technology will also provide the solution. They point to the mechanization of the farm and the industrial revolution as similar phases of technological development that eventually generated more jobs. Others predict fundamental change as digitization and computation software allow machines to perform actions and to respond to inputs in ways that were inconceivable not long ago. This means less dangerous work will be performed by humans, but humans will have a lot less to do. Even if new challenges come up, machines will learn to deal with them. We are in the initial phase of this transformation. Right now, creation of jobs through services such as Uber and Lyft and of revenue through Airbnb look like positive developments. Yet, in the near future, when self-driving cars and trucks become commonplace, a lot of these jobs will cease to exist. Retail and warehouse sectors will need a lot fewer people than are hired now.

The solutions offered to date are mostly along the lines of training—especially in technical skills, so that people can take advantage of emerging opportunities and prepare for ones that we cannot foresee at the moment. The other solution, the subject of an experiment in Finland, is to provide everyone a basic income so that basic needs are fulfilled and a lack of employability is not a burden. These are acceptable solutions to some degree, but they do not take into account that billions of people across the world, especially in Asia and Africa, are really young—for instance, 50 percent of India’s population is less than 25 years old—and are looking not just for jobs but a purpose in life.

The paucity of thinking around this topic is a challenge for engineering educators, since a lot of our domain research is responsible for creating this conundrum in the first place. As an example, 3-D printing has definitely made design and production more universal, but it has also made it more digital and easy to do with fewer and fewer people. We are at the cusp of producing more and more things for people who are employed less and less. What do we teach in this scenario and how do we impart knowledge whose half-life can be years or months or even weeks, and to what avail?


Aditya Johri is an associate professor in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology at George Mason University. 





A new survey tool opens a path to more reliable theories in engineering.

By Walter C. Lee, Allison Godwin and Amy L. Hermundstad Nave

In recent years, colleges and universities have increasingly been called upon for answers related to the success of undergraduate students. In response, educators and researchers have emphasized outcomes and particular theories of student development—such as student retention, engagement, and involvement. However, student development theories are often disconnected from engineering education practice, failing to consider the diverse backgrounds of students and programmatic approaches aimed at helping students be successful. There is thus a need for engineering-specific theories and constructs to advance our understanding of student development and, ultimately, success in their engineering pathways.

To help meet this need, we developed the Engineering Student Integration Instrument (ESII), a new way of understanding and measuring student integration that draws on a recently developed model of co-curricular support (MCCS) for undergraduate engineering students. Integration traditionally refers to a student’s cultural fit within an institution and is sometimes equated with cultural assimilation. As a result, it may not accurately reflect the experience of underrepresented students, or those who do not fit within the dominant culture. In developing the ESII we drew from the MCCS because it interprets integration differently, focusing on whether a student has the awareness of and access to the resources necessary to be successful. It focuses on the support necessary for students to persist in engineering as opposed to their ability to adopt the values of the institution.

In developing the ESII, we provide the community with a new tool that can be used to explore students’ interactions with engineering faculty, staff, and other students, as well as their academic performance, participation in extracurricular activities, and professional development. We created survey items by drawing on a data set of actual student responses about how they benefited from support provided by student support centers, such as minority engineering programs (MEPs) and women in engineering programs (WEPs). These responses, which came from a diverse group of students from multiple universities, were transformed into survey questions. Before finalizing the survey, we sought feedback on phrasing, formatting, and validity from researchers, students, and a college administrator responsible for assessment.

To collect validity evidence, we administered the survey to engineering students at a large East Coast public university. A total of 586 students responded. Overall, the sample was representative of the racial and ethnic demographics of the engineering population at the university, although the proportion of female respondents was slightly higher than their representation among the school’s engineering students. Using the students’ responses, we conducted an exploratory factor analysis on half of the data and a confirmatory factor analysis on the other half. This approach allowed us to examine the structure and the fit of the developed instrument.

Our results showed the appropriateness of the ESII for measuring the integration of undergraduate students in engineering. The instrument is easy to administer and provides researchers with a more comprehensive and multidimensional way to measure student integration. Future studies should test the use of the ESII in other contexts, such as community colleges and nonresidential universities, to determine the extent to which these constructs are transferable. It is our hope that the ESII will increase the focus on the support necessary for students to persist, not on their ability to adopt the values of the institution.


Walter C. Lee is assistant director of research in the Engineering Education Department at Virginia Tech, where Amy L. Hermundstad Nave is a Ph.D. candidate. Allison Godwin is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. This article is excerpted from “Development of the Engineering Student Integration Instrument: Rethinking Measures of Integration,” which appears in the January 2018 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education.




Job–hunting? Here are a few current openings:





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COVER: 20 UNDER 40—Young faculty members who have distinguished themselves in research, teaching, or both.

FEATURE: TEACHING TOOLBOX—A growing number of schools are borrowing a page from theater classes and providing improv instruction to help engineering students improve their communication skills and develop mindfulness, flexibility and teamwork.





Are you an academic chair or department head? Would you like to connect with other department leaders to exchange ideas, share challenges, and build working relationships? Don’t miss the Engineering and Engineering Technology Chairs Open Exchange, an exclusive, free 90-minute session for chairs and department heads offered at this year's Annual Conference and Exposition in Salt Lake City, UT. The session is scheduled for Sunday, June 24 from 2:45–4:15 p.m. Learn more and reserve your spot today!

ASEE IS CO-HOSTING the First Annual CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity - pronounced “connected”) Conference April 29 to May 2. It will be a forum on enhancing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in engineering and computing. CoNECD will encompass many diverse groups, including those based on gender (including gender identity and gender expression), race and ethnicity, disability, veterans, LGBTQ+, 1st generation and socio-economic status. It’s a collaboration of ASEE’s Minorities in Engineering and Women in Engineering divisions and several outside groups. Registration is now open. Find out more.

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