This paper describes progress to date resulting from a National Science Foundation (NSF) IUSE/PFE Revolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (RED) grant. Traditionally, engineering students are trained technically, with less focus on critical examinations of assumptions within engineering practice, and the larger contexts in which engineering is embedded. With funding from this RED grant, our School of Engineering is working towards redefining the “engineering canon” with the goal of developing “Changemaking Engineers”. This revised canon teaches technical skills within a contextual framework that includes humanitarian, sustainable, and social justice approaches. This requires an enhanced curriculum that also includes a focus on student teamwork, a greater consideration of social and economic factors, improved communication with diverse constituents, and reflection on an ethical understanding of decisions and solutions. This broader perspective of engineering practice will produce graduates who can address a wider range of societal problems bringing new perspectives to traditional areas.
In this paper, we will review our progress towards achieving this vision, including curricular efforts related to the revised canon, a program to develop professional skills and greater connections to professional practice, and establishing partnerships with industry, community, and students that value our vision of changemaking engineers.
We have developed several kinds of curricular revisions across multiple engineering courses and disciplines. We will summarize these efforts including new courses and modules within existing courses in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, and General Engineering. New courses include Engineering and Social Justice, Engineering Peace, and an Integrated Approach to Electrical Engineering. Modules or other content have been incorporated in courses including Circuits, Materials Science, Operations Research, Six Sigma – Process Improvement Methods, Professional Practice, and Robotics.
An Industry Scholars Program (ISP) is a year-long industry immersion program for outstanding first- and second-year engineering undergraduates established by the industry advisory board of our engineering school to instill professional and leadership skills in these future engineers. We will summarize the development and experiences with this program since it launched in Spring 2017. Activities include industry-led monthly professional skills workshops and industry site visits during the academic year and summer internships. An Industry Scholars Mentorship Program has also been developed. These programs exemplify how industry partnerships in higher education are vital to increased preparedness of engineering graduates.
In March 2019, we launched the Engineering Exchange for Social Justice (ExSJ). ExSJ defines a new approach for engineering and community partnerships. Through the mutual exchange of expertise, technical know-how is combined with contextual, cultural and historical knowledge of the community to identify real needs. Community defined ‘problem briefs’ can then be turned into actionable student assignments, design projects, research theses or extracurricular pro bono engineering projects that are supported by local professionals. The first results from ExSJ collaborations will be reported.
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