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4 The Curriculum There have been dramatic changes in engineering curricula in the past 30 years. A review of this evolution clearly exposes persistent tensions within engineering education. A Record of Change An examination of the textbooks in a given engineering discipline over the past 30 years reveals changes striking in both nature and extent. The trend is toward a deeper, more fundamental understanding of the subject, combined with greater dependence on mathematical analysis and modeling. In fact, the undergraduate textbooks of one decade reflect some of the research papers and graduate texts of the previous period. One concludes that a considerable body of knowledge has flowed from the graduate to the undergraduate level. Furthermore, a review of the engineering college catalogs over the same 30-year period reveals the unmistakable trend of increasing sci- ence and engineering science content with a compensatory decrease in topics associated with engineering practice. Such catalogs also indicate a trend toward greater curricular flexibility, which includes time explicitly devoted to the humanities and social sciences. Like the text- book evidence, catalogs are the printed summary of extensive and often heated debates within engineering faculties. They also reflect the addi- tional dimension of "outside" influences of accreditation bodies such 70

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THE C URRIC AL UM 71 as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology ABET and of industrial trends. The broad goals of undergraduate engineering education to prepare students for practice, graduate study, and lifelong learning are the underlying reasons for these curricular changes. With regard to the first goal preparing students to contribute to contemporary professional engineering assignments the curriculum is necessarily part of a dynamic process. As professional engineering practice changes, the educational base must change; the rate of change in most areas of professional practice since World War II has caused curricular stress. The second goal of undergraduate engineering education preparing the student for graduate study imposes an additional curricular dimension that is not always compatible with preparation for profes- sional practice. The conflict appears not only in the approach and sul:- stance of particular courses, but also in the time devoted to what appears to lee an ever-l~roadening range of subjects. The third goal- providing abase forlifelonglearning in support of evolving career ol~jec- tives has a subtle and open-ended purpose. It attempts to address the fact that, during the active career life of an engineer, he or she is apt to take on increasing supervisory responsibilities, which often lead to important management positions having a strong economic compo- nent. Thus, the three-dimensional nature of the goals, together with the dynamic interaction among them, shapes the undergraduate engi . . . neerlug currlcu .um. Science Versus Engineering The dramatic termination of World War II not only established that technology was the determining factor in that conflict, but, of equal importance, it resulted in recognition of the science-l~ased nature of that technology. The role of fundamental science both in changing traditional fields of engineering and in creating whole new technolo- gies has been illustrated many times in subsequent decades. While the underlying motivation for change is often economic or results from the unending drive to improve the quality of life, the cycle of movement from scientific understanding to pilot-state experimentation to initial technological application to mature technologies is an unmistakable feature of our technological age. The curricular consequences of these postwar developments have been major and have led to wrenching experiences in some disciplines. For example, the first freshman-year courses eliminated or forced to atrophy were the so-called shop practice courses. This change was

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72 ENGINEERING UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION rapidly followed by a reduction in drafting. Although these courses clearly provided motivation to the fledgling engineer and some knowl- edge of what was then "current practice," the claim for more science and mathematics was given higher priority. However, in recent years these very topics have reemerged and have been transformed as a result of the science-technology cycle cited above. Computer-aided design {CAD and computer-aided manufacturing ~C~) now appear as well- accepted topics in modern engineering curricula. Curricular Compression The expansion of graduate education in the 1950s and 1960s imposed additional pressure on curricula as some of its topics were moved back to the undergraduate years. Laboratory work was compressed and Reemphasized. Over a period of time this reduction reached the point where in some cases the residual laboratory experience was education- ally marginal. While some immediately protested this trend, only recently has the seriousness of letting laboratory work vanish from the undergraduate curriculum been recognized. In a manner analogous to the incorporation of CAD/CAM, the role of simulation is a topic of current debate. The need for additional science and engineering science had the fur- ther effect of compressing and in many cases eliminating junior- and senior-year design courses. In the traditional curriculum these courses were the capstone of the educational program, because in them, all the previous "fundamentals" joined with engineering practice to give the student the experience of creating a practical device, system, or process. The reduced emphasis on design created severe curricular ten- sions, which ultimately led ABET to set a minimum required threshold on design content. In addition, the professional societies insisted on playing a more active role in accreditation, which required their repre- sentation on ABET accreditation teams. Presently a kind of moratorium stabilizes the balance between sci- ence and engineering. While the partitioning of areas is not absolute, the common view is that the balance among science, engineering, design, and the nontechnological component cannot be changed fur- ther without seriously damaging at least one of the four. Nevertheless, pressures do exist for substantial change. For example, how will the imperatives of computers and the information age find room in the curriculum? Or how will time be found for incorporating the field of biotechnology, which is growing within many engineering disciplines? And how is the third goal of undergraduate engineering education to

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THE CURRICUL AM 73 provide a base for lifelong learning in support of evolving career ol~jec- tives to be addressed when engineers encounter several technological revolutions during their careers and when they are further called upon to bridge the gap from technology to society? The Four-Year Constraint In spite of the constant pressure to include additional subject matter, the undergraduate curriculum has generally followed the standard 4- year time period {although in practice the average engineering student requires 4~/z years to complete the bachelor's-degree requirements). To some, this constraint has not appeared to lie entirely rational, espe- cially when one considers that in Western Europe at least 5 years are devoted to what is considered in the United States to be college-level material. However, others view the 4-year constraint as desirable, because it forces the setting of curricular priorities. Furthermore, industry has been outspoken in stating its desire to keep the first profes- sional degree within the 4-year time period. This is partly because of the diverse nature of industry's job demands, but a second consider- ation is the perceived cost to industry if more years are required. In the public sector, cost considerations are also a factor in the state legisla- tures, as well as for families with students in independent institutions. However, because of the obvious problems that result from trying to fit more and more content into a fixed time period, there have been attempts to lengthen the time to undergraduate degree to five years. After World War II there was a serious, and for that time farsighted, attempt to introduce a five-year undergraduate program. For example, all engineering curricula at Cornell University were changed to a five- year base, and five or six other schools moved in the same direction. The five-year program did permit greater depth in individual areas of specialization and added enrichment in nontechnical fields. However, there was no concerted effort to adopt this approach, and industry opposed the concept. Simultaneous with this five-year experiment was the rapid develop- ment of graduate education in engineering. Thus, an increasing num- l~er of students did in fact continue for at least a fifth year, but the degree awarded was at the master's level. One difficulty with the five-year experiment was that when graduate students coming from other schools were enrolled in the same upper-level courses as undergradu- ates, the undergraduates were doing essentially the same work for une . . . qua . recognition. Gradually one school after another discontinued the five-year pro

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74 ENGINEERING UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION grams, so that by the early 1960s the experiment had come to an end. In hindsight the five-year concept was far in advance of its time, but it did not anticipate the rapid rise of graduate education in engineering. The fact that the concept was not adopted lay the profession has tended to . . . . suppress its reconslc aeration in recent years. Recent Proposals Another approach to broadening undergraduate engineering educa- tion has been the introduction of the so-called 3 + 2 curriculum. In these programs the student takes an initial three years in a liberal arts setting, studying enough physics, chemistry, mathematics, and per- haps engineering science courses to be able to transfer to engineering with minimum dislocation in time. The final two years are spent in an engineering setting; the student usually receives two undergraduate bachelor's degrees. The 3 + 2 approach has never been widely adopted, and the number of students in these programs has remained small. Such students repre- sent an aberration in a liberal arts environment, and from the engineer- ing side they have been more tolerated than encouraged. Neither liberal arts nor engineering faculties have ever seriously addressed the purpose of the 3 + 2 programs. While such programs are often described as trying to strengthen the third goal of engineering education I providing a base for lifelong learning in support of evolving career objectives, this attribute has never been seriously addressed in the sense of a structured 3 + 2 curriculum. Another approach to undergraduate engineering curricula has at times been advocated by several groups within professional engineer- ing societies. This approach divides the entire educational process into preprofessional and professional components, resulting in a first engi- neering degree after at least five and more probably six years. Advocates of this approach claim that it is the only way to resolve the conflicts inherent in the four-year program. The advantages of this type of approach, according to advocates, are that the broad, nontechnical base can be established in a coherent manner, and the in-depth technical component can be added in an environment dedicated to professional education. Although medicine and law have long experience with the preprofessional model, engineering education has not adopted this approach. One might consider 3 + 2 programs as an experimental approach to the preprofessional model. Conceptually, this line of reasoning intro- duces a structured 3 + 2 program which, with sufficient curricular

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THE C URRIC UL UM 75 integration, could address the goals of engineering education in a pur- poseful and comprehensive fashion. However, neither the professional societies nor liberal arts and engineering educators have approached 3 + 2 programs in this light. In conclusion, over the past 30 years there have been major changes in engineering curricula. The science and engineering science content has increased appreciably, with a concomitant decrease in topics asso- ciated with engineering practice. In addition, more time is devoted to the humanities and social sciences, and there is greater curricular flexi- bility. During this period undergraduate engineering education has experimented with changing or modifying the four-year norm for the B.S. degree. None of these experiments has succeeded in displacing the traditional approach. The problems of the time to acquire the first professional degree and the nature of that degree remain issues in engi . . neermg ec .ucatlon. The Panel on Undergraduate Engineering Education recommends that, to increase elasticity in enrollment capacities and diversity of educational background of engineering enrollments, a pilot group of colleges and engineering schools be funded to demonstrate effective structures for dual-degree programs. Experience gained from this pilot group could then be applied, if needed, to a widergroup of institutions. In addition, the experience gained would be relevant to the often- debated model of preprofessional followed byprofessional engineering education.