Click for next page ( 13


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 12
Engineering ot the Millennium: a Hew Vision TtIE CH8NGING WORM OF ENGINEE~NG As the twenty-first century nears, humanity's world is undergoing epochal change. The current century is giving way to a global economy in which market dominance is fragmented, widely distributed, and often short-livecI. Human affairs, from the international to the personal, seem uncertain and transitory. Even the end of the Cold War, otherwise an entirely positive event, has removed tensions and imperatives that lent a sense of structure to U.S. national priorities for more than four decades. A long-running global recession has thawed, not into the traditional economic boom but instead into a tepid and uncertain recovery. While some industrial sectors appear healthy, nevertheless it is a recovery that may be threatened by its unevenness between and within nations and by the great dispersion of purchasing power and personal demand across the global population. Increasingly austere federal budgets and restricted industrial expansion in many sectors have become chronic. This circumstance of general instability and rapid change is having a profound impact on the practice of engineering in the United States. Restructuring, clownsizing, mergers and acquisitions, curtailment of re- search and development, outsourcing, research collaboration, automation, offshore manufacturing, and offshore engineering (particularly of soft- ware) are all attempts to survive in the new economic environment or to capitalize on new opportunities; they all affect the demand for engineers and the cleman(ls placecl on these engineers. At the same time, the ability of the federal government to support engineering research and graduate education at colleges and universities is diminished. And the retooling of the defense industry toward a focus on civilian technologies, with attendant declines in the defense budget, has brought turbulence and funding cuts to large sectors of engineering activity in both industry and academe. 12

OCR for page 12
ENGINEERING AT THE MILLENNIUM: A NEW VISION 13 However, engineering's role is more important than ever. With humanity's growing numbers and demands placing ever-increasing pressure on the resources of a shrinking world, creative and thoughtful use of engineering and technology will remain essential for solving the problems of energy, food, transportation, housing, health care, com- munication, manufacturing, education, and environmental protection ant! for fulfilling all the other requirements of modern life (NAE, 1991). An explosion of technology is occurring. It is not an explosion that affects the outward look of the landscape, as occurred in the period from 1850 to 1950 with the emergence of factories, large bridges and dams, automobiles and airplanes, highway systems, electric power systems, telephones, and televisions. Instead, it is a revolution in the way things are clesignecI, made, and controlled in what they are made of and how they work. This technological revolution is more subtle than past ones but just as pervasive and important in its impact on human life. Many of the technologies of today and tomorrow are internal rather than external in their function and impact; often they operate on a microscopic and molecular scale-or even invisibly, in the electromagnetic spectrum. New mate- rials, for example, are opening the door to superconduc- tivity, microelectronic robots, embedded sensors, hu- man organ replacement, and ever-smaller and more powerful computers. Biotechnology, to take another example, holds enormous promise for producing a variety of small revolutions in medicine, agriculture, and other fields. Computerization and information tech- nology are driving an accelerating increase in the pro- ductive organization of human enterprise, from manu- facturing and business to entertainment, telecommuni- cations, transportation systems, and the "information highway." The changes affecting engineering are not just economic and technological but also social and cultural. In the United States, a demographic shift is occurring on a scale equal to those of the early twentieth century, as immigration from Latin America and Asia together with the growing population of resident Hispanic and African Americans alter the traditional U.S. view of "minority" and "major- ity." Along with the entry of large numbers of women into the workforce over the past two (leca(les, these demographic shifts mean that engineering traclitionally a bastion of white males-must re- shape many of its cultural foundations if it is to remain strong and relevant to the society it serves. This century will go down in history as the century of technology. . . In these almost one hundred years we developed the ability to move people and things between any two points on the globe in hours and to keep those points in instantaneous communica- tion. We sow, reap, cook, communi- cate, manufacture, travel, clothe, entertain, educate, research, manage, cure, and kill by highly technological means. Simon Ramo (Ramo, 1988)

OCR for page 12
14 ENGINEERING EDUCATION: DESIGNING AN ADAPTIVE SYSTEM There is a widening recognition of the responsibility of engineers to consoler the social and environmental impact of their work. in sharp contrast to the attitudes and practices that prevailed at mid- century and before, engineers today are required to (resign sustain- able systems that consider as crucial inputs the environmental impact of their manufacture and use, their accessibility to people of diverse ethnicity and physical abilities, their safety, and their recyclability. The means of (lelivery of engineering work are also changing; engineering work is no longer delivered solely through tangible products. Engineering services ranging from (resigns to software systems to technology assessments are ~lelivered electronically around the world. Engineering education is very much an engineering service, and it, too, requires effective delivery systems. Other changes are having a major impact on education generally. Television, computers, and video games appear to have modifiecl significantly the ways that young people learn and are willing to learn. A number of societal factors have contributed to a loss of academic discipline that Yields among other things' fewer youn~- . .. . . . ./ ~7 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ o _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (~ _ 7 _ _ _ ~_ _ Cal sters with an orientation toward and strong skills in mathematics and science. All these aspects of the changing context of engineering affect . . . . . . By. engineering education In various ways. ~ ne engineering education system is feeling the stress of changing external conditions but has undergone only limitecl and sporadic changes in response; like all establishecl enterprises, it resists large-scale change. But the time for such change is now at hand. There is an urgent need for new vision and for taking stock to see where changes must be made if the system is to continue meeting the needs of the nation now and in the coming century. VISION FOR ME E-FIRST CENTURY Engineering will be challenged as never before to shape the nature and quality of life in the twenty-first century. Engineering education will be at the forefront of the effort to meet that challenge.2 The BEEd envisions a U.S. engineering education system that is highly adapt- able to the demands of the future, producing well-rouncled profes 1Other authoritative groups are also recognizing this need. For example, in Octo- ber 1994, the results of a major study, Engineering Education fo7- a Changing World, were announced by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE, 1994), and the report Restructuring Engineering Education was issued by NSF in March 1995 (NSF, 1995). 2The use of "will" describes an ideal future state; it should not be read as an imperative dictate.

OCR for page 12
ENGINEERING AT THE A/IILLENNIUM: A NEW VISION 15 signal engineers able to work together efficiently in teams to identify and solve complex problems in industry, academe, government, and society. Along with engineering itself, engineering education in the twenty- first century will have found new priorities ant! a new social role suited to the post-Cold War world. U.S. engineers will compete well in regional as well as global markets characterize(l by rapid technologi- cal change and intense competition. More of them will assume central roles in the management of academe, industry, and government, and all will have greater intellectual breadth, better communication skills, a penchant for collaboration, and a habit of lifelong learning. The teaching of these characteristics will apply to the education of future engineering faculty as well as to that of practitioners. Given the rapidity of technological change, it is essential that the education system prepare students to function procluctively as engi neers twnetner in Industry, government, or academe) over the full course of a career. Content-based learning alone must not drive engineering education. The primary aim will be to instill a strong knowledge of how to learn while still producing competent engineers who are well-grounded} in engineering science and mathematics and have an unclerstan(ling of (resign in the social context. Ideally, the education engineers obtain at the unclergraclu DEFINITIONS Science The study of natural systems (including physical, math- ematical, biological, behavioral, and social/economic systems) in order to discover new knowledge and improve human understanding of those systems. Engineering Science-The study of natural and/or human-made systems and processes with a view to the eventual use of the knowledge obtained in engineered systems, products, processes, and services. Engineering The profession in which knowledge of the mathemati- cal and natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, natural and man-made materials and the forces of nature for the benefit of humankind. ate level will be broad enough to provide a strong basis not only for a career in engineering but also for careers in other professions. This will give them the flexibility to pursue interests and opportunities in other fields such as medicine, law, and management where they can bring their technological perspectives to bear in useful ways, as well as to respond to changing market conditions ~ . for engineers. Eclucational reforms at the graduate level likewise will provide students with the flexibility to function as faculty members, industry researchers, or product development team members and leaclers. Graduate-leve! engineers will be comfortable with systems-oriente(1 work and will be able to move with relative ease between different special- ized areas of engineering research. To ensure that engineers can continue to clevelop their knowledge and capabilities over a lifetime of practice, the system will offer a wide variety of opportunities for readily accessible and effective continuous education. Industry will establish clear incentives for practicing engineers to continuously improve their knowledge and competence.

OCR for page 12
16 ENGINEERING ED UCAT1ON: DESIGNING AN ADAPTIVE SYSTEM Engineering education will endeavor to make students more aware of the complex interrelationships between engineering ant! industri- alized society (including the natural environment), encouraging and preparing them to assume stronger and more visible roles-even leadership roles as responsible engineers in society and as procluc- tive citizens (see, for example, Florman, 19871. As part of that understanding of complexity, engineering graclu- ates will have an orientation toward (and understanding of ~ the design and development of complex technological systems. To that end, they will be experienced ant! comfortable with working on cross- disciplinary teams whose members' primary expertise might encom- pass several engineering disciplines ant! the sciences, as well as . business, law, and marketing, and in which each member has a basic unclerstancling of the others' disciplines. Central to the education of most engineers will be significant industrial contact and a strong eclucational exposure to the practical. hands-on aspects of engineering in both large, established corpora- tions and small new ventures. The undergraduate curriculum at each institution will integrate the fundamentals of natural sciences, engi- neering science, and mathematics with early and broad exposure to these engineering practice aspects, as well as with creative design. All engineering students, regardless of their choice of career, will experience this integrates! education. Such an experience is espe- cially important in the education of future undergraduate and gradu- ate engineering faculty, for the knowleclge and perspectives of professors are transmitted to each new generation of engineers. All these expectations, taken together, place enormous pressure on the concept of the four-year bachelors (legree. Few students can absorb all the necessary technical and nontechnical knowledge as well as the requisite practical experience in four years (see, for example, Augustine, 19941. Thus, schools will experiment with and offer a variety of alternative paths to the bachelors degree, including those requiring more than four years. They will also offer alternative routes to graduate degrees, including practice-oriented doctoral degrees as a complement to (not a replacement for) the current research-oriented doctoral degrees. The role of accreditation in such experimentation will be a central one. Performance- or output- oriented accreditation will be developed to encourage the diversity in educational formats that the BEEd believes is vital for the future of . . . engineering education. In light of the rapidly changing demographic makeup of the nation and in view of the valuable contributions women and underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities can make, the participation of such individuals in all aspects of engineering will become substantially

OCR for page 12
ENGINEERING AT THE MILLENNIUM: A NEW VISION 17 THE PENDULUM SWINGS... At the core of the BEEd's vision is a set of imperatives that have been recognized by a growing number of engineering educators in recent years. To talce but one example, the 1989 Massachusetts Institute of Technology report Made in America called for the creation of a new cadre of students and faculty characterized by (1) interest in, and knowledge of, real problems and their societal, economic, and political context; (2) an ability to function effectively as members of a team creating new products, pro- cesses, and systems; (3) an ability to operate effectively beyond the confines of a single discipline; and (4) the integration of a deep understand- ing of science and technology with practical knowledge, a hands-on orientation, and experimental skills and insight (Dertouzos et al., 1989, p. 157~. A. greater. To provide full access to all who could benefit from an engineering education, engineering schools will institute mechanisms that ensure that the diversity of their student body and faculty reflects the changing demographics of the national and regional population from which they draw their students. A very important development among engineering students and the population in general will be the growth of an enthusiasm about engineering and an appreciation of the central role it plays in society. Such positive attitudes will be former! early. Accordingly, efforts by engineering schools will aim at ensuring that precollege teachers and college-lever teachers of non-engineering students understand the nature and role of technology as well as the requirements for engineering careers. To the extent possible, K-12 students will be imbued with greater knowle(lge of engineering and improved compe- tence in mathematics and science, resulting in larger numbers of better-qualified and better-informed en- trants into engineering study. They will uncierstanc3 clearly the distinctions between engineering and science. Engi- neering faculty willingly accept the responsibility to teach courses that provide engineers with an apprecia- tion of the traditions of engineering and non-majors with an understancling of why ant} how engineering is practiced. Engineer- ing educators' responsibilities will thus extend to explaining the nature of engineering to all who would profess to be educated, and the responsibilities of other eclucators will extend to incorporating re- quirements for technological literacy in their curricula. The eclucational experience will be richer as well as more produc- tive. Engineering educators will employ modern, enlightened meth- Otis in nurturing, teaching, and developing the students. Their teaching methods will benefit from the findings of cognitive science and will reflect the changing culture and learning styles of young people, who increasingly are visual learners-computer literate and computer dependent. The educators will become expert in the use of educational technologies and information systems to enhance their teaching effec- tiveness. Ways will be found to make the (lelivery of engineering education more cost-effective. (Some of the same techniques used by industry in its efforts to cut costs-restructuring, consolidation, col- laboration, and electronic networking, for example will be applied not only to the business functions of the university but also to some of the purely academic functions, such as the clevelopment of curricula and the delivery of courses.)

OCR for page 12
18 ENGINEERING EDUCATION: DESIGNING AN ADAPTIVE SYSTEM The vision of engineering education presented here cannot be static. Like the engineering education system itself, this vision must evolve to meet changing ant! unforeseen neecis. The education system, including curricula, must continually change to reflect the emerging directions of the engineering profession and the evolving needs of the "customer" the engineering stucient and practitioner. To that end, the BEEd considers adaptability to be an essential attribute of engineering education in the twenty-first century. Diver- sity of approaches is a crucial element of this adaptability. Engineer- ing schools must be permitted to pursue these and future needs in their own varied ways, reflecting the variety of their student populations and of the regional industries, public works, and other determinants that shape their missions.