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Assessment of Corrosion Education
functional success of the project. If that student has had little or no exposure to corrosion, a course whose objective is to help the student synthesize knowledge already mastered is unlikely to teach anything else than that corrosion could take place and degrade system performance.
Unfortunately, while these three categories of corrosion education are available in some schools, many students, particularly those in fields of engineering other than materials, are likely to graduate with no formal exposure to corrosion science or engineering. This situation explains the limited corrosion-related skill sets that students are bringing to the workforce.
Given the enormous financial and strategic importance of corrosion, as discussed in Chapter 1, how is it that most U.S. engineers can graduate with so little grasp of corrosion? In the committee’s opinion, the answer lies in the growing number of competing topics that the graduates must master. As engineering becomes increasingly complex and interdisciplinary, there is constant pressure to keep adding fresh material to the curriculum, including courses on new tools that lead to a deeper understanding of all materials while keeping the course load to a total of 120-128 credits. (Examples are computational tools for modeling and visualizing everything from bonding to structure formation to macroscopic processes.) This pressure comes from various stakeholders: students, who want to be competitive for employment or admission to graduate schools; faculty members, who sincerely believe that every well-educated student should know a reasonable amount about his or her own research specialty; and also employers, who want new graduates to be conversant in the latest findings. Most engineering educators recognize that curricula are already saturated and accept that if new topics are to be added, old ones must be subtracted or diluted.
Corrosion education tends not to fare well in the face of these pressures. Despite its importance, corrosion is not new, and few consider corrosion science and engineering to be at the cutting edge. The very thought of corrosion can be off-putting to students,3 who feel that they should be learning about new technologies with the potential to change the world. Few engineering educators and students grasp the wealth of strategies that are available to prevent corrosion and would rather spend class time on topics that they perceive as more useful.
Results from a questionnaire circulated to engineering educators in conjunction with the present study tend to support this view (see Box 2-4 for a discussion
A couple of panelists thought that corrosion would be taken more seriously if the name were changed. The corollary cited was the term “tribology,” which has come to be used in place of “wear.”