The aim of this report is to encourage enhanced richness and relevance of the undergraduate engineering education experience, and thus produce better-prepared and more globally competitive graduates, by providing practical guidance for incorporating real world experience in US engineering programs. The report, a collaborative effort of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), builds on two NAE reports on The Engineer of 2020 (NAE, 2004; 2005) that cited the importance of grounding engineering education in real world experience. This project also aligns with other NAE efforts in engineering education, such as the Grand Challenges of Engineering, Changing the Conversation, and Frontiers of Engineering Education.
The Real World Engineering Education (RWEE) committee invited nominations from US universities and colleges that offer programs in undergraduate engineering, some of which involved partnerships with other types of institutions, corporations, or community members. The committee gave preference to 4-year programs that could be adopted or adapted at other institutions. Nominating institutions were asked to provide a description of the program, its start date, anticipated and actual outcomes, original and current funding, number and diversity of students and faculty involved in the program, partners, and methods of assessment (to facilitate ongoing improvement of new programs).
The number of nominated programs—89, at 73 public and private universities and colleges around the country—indicates the importance many institutions place on the incorporation of real world experiences for their engineering students. Furthermore, we are pleased to note that, although some of the nominated programs have been operational for several decades, over half were launched since 2006, which suggests an increasing interest in enhancing US undergraduate engineering education through the inclusion of practical, real world experience.
The 29 selections described in the following pages feature a diverse range of model programs in terms of institution type, program category and scope, geographic location, and longevity. The report also includes a section on potential barriers to implementation, as described by engineering and engineering technology deans, together with suggested methods of overcoming those barriers.
We are excited about the potential of this report to promote awareness and adoption of programs that incorporate real world experiences in engineering education. We believe the report will be useful to both academic and industry professionals interested in engaging and better preparing engineering students for the workplace and for competition in the global economy.
Charles M. Vest
National Academy of Engineering