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Assessment of Corrosion Education
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A PATH FORWARD
Action is needed to improve the corrosion education of graduating and practicing engineers in the United States. Corrosion needs to be included in bachelor’s-level design courses that are taught in the major engineering disciplines. Short courses and in-house training by corrosion experts have a role to play in increasing the number of corrosion-knowledgeable engineers, and savings will accrue when they apply their newfound knowledge, but these approaches have their limitations and are not an answer to inadequate education at universities that award professional degrees.
It is clear to the committee that students in general are not attracted to corrosion—not only because of the often negative connotations associated with the discipline but also because the jobs associated with corrosion are typically thought of as being jobs in basic industry. Corrosion is not thought to be relevant to or competitive with attractive fields such as nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, or jobs that tackle the energy crisis.
While the committee can envision that new approaches to distance learning might improve the state of corrosion education, it acknowledges that institutional barriers to distance learning will make it difficult in the near term. Also, linking corrosion to other electrochemical technologies or courses could enhance the status of corrosion and help to get it incorporated into existing curricula. Corrosion courses could be taught by experts in related areas such as electrochemistry.
The committee’s tactical recommendations have several themes. One is that the corrosion education system depends on a substantial corps of corrosion teachers, which in turn depends on the health of the corrosion research community. A vibrant corrosion research community provides teachers for corrosion classes and a research environment in which corrosion students at all levels can gain experience. The corrosion teachers themselves will need to rely on the development of educational modules, case studies, and capstone courses, as well as on support for their own training and education.9 Opportunities to gain work experience and to add to their knowledge in the government and industrial sectors is an important common theme. Another is the need for government and industry to identify and make known, on an ongoing basis, their corrosion skills requirements, thereby enabling the identification and updating of learning outcomes—that is, the skills a student is expected to have at graduation—for new educational programs (illustrative learning outcomes for some corrosion engineering courses are shown in Appendix F).
A capstone course is a course offered in the final semester of a student’s major. It ties together the key topics that faculty expect the student to have learned during the major, interdisciplinary program, or interdepartmental major.