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Cracking the ‘how’ in changing engineering education

Cracking the ‘how’ in changing engineering education

We’ve been quiet, but hard at work, and are now ready to unveil something big: the first of what will be several articles mining the experience of the Pathways  project, with which we worked in 2013-2016 (when the NSF funding ended).

If you’re at the ASEE conference, make time for our presentation Wednesday morning as well as the Entrepreneurship division reception Tuesday evening. Scott Hutcheson will be presenting some of the findings of our research with the universities involved in Pathways. A program of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), Pathways was an effort to create a “tipping point” for the inclusion of innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) in undergraduate engineering education. 50 schools participated (although a somewhat informal “community of practice” persists). In addition to opportunities to learn about effective approaches to I&E, teams from each institution received training and coaching in Strategic Doing as a way to organize their work together.

We invited the schools to be part of follow-up research, and 33 accepted. The research explores questions around team composition, leadership structure, environmental factors, and the use of agile strategy. To tease out the factors that are most critical to this kind of work, 24 of the schools (those that were in the initiative for at least two years) were divided into quartiles according to the number of new collaborations they had completed (eg, a new course, a makerspace, a student IP policy). The research team then compared the highest quartile with the lowest to see if any patterns emerged.

We’ll discuss several of the findings in coming posts, but we’ll start with what we think is one of the biggest findings:

The consistent use of Strategic Doing stood out as one of the strongest predictors of team productivity. The teams in the highest quartile about 8 of the 10 Rules of Strategic Doing consistently, while the teams in the lowest quartile used 2.

You can read a summary of the paper here (the full paper will be available to the public soon).

Photo credit: EpicenterUSA (Flickr)

Hack of the Week: Helping Students Diverge

In their thinking, that is: this week’s Hack is from Daniel Raviv of Florida Atlantic University, who’s got lots more ideas in a set of books (links below). Here’s an easy exercise to help students build their ideation abilities:

Show the students a coat hanger, and have them individually list different uses for it. They can think creatively about the item: use any material, size or shape of a hanger; they may imagine cutting it, shrinking it, using many of them, etc. Students then share their ideas, and depending on the time constraints, pick a suitable idea to implement.

More ideas from Daniel:

8 Simple Ways to Outsmart a Mosquito: A Hands-On Guide to Learning the 8 Keys to Innovation
Everyone Loves Speed Bumps, Don’t You? A Guide to Innovative Thinking
Partly Funny with a Chance of Brainstorms: A Guide to Divergent Thinking

Hacks of the Week are easily-implementable ideas – share yours now.

An Idea Worth Stealing: Collaborate to Innovate Awards

Collaboration Image800

The Engineer, a publication based in London, has announced a new competition: Collaborate to Innovate (C2i).   As we read through this announcement, it occurred to us that it might be a good idea to replicate this competition within undergraduate engineering programs. We could bring back alumni as judges.

“We’re delighted to announce that entries are now open for Collaborate To Innovate, a brand new and highly prestigious awards competition organised by The Engineer, the UK’s longest running engineering publication. From the biggest and boldest infrastructure projects to the most fundamental technology breakthroughs, effective collaboration is the lifeblood of engineering innovation, and through C2i we will uncover and celebrate some of the UK’s most inspiring, innovative and effective collaborative technology projects.”

Read more.

Boston University’s Undergraduate Inspiration Ambassadors

Josiah Quincy Upper School students and Gretchen Fougere, ENG associate dean for outreach and diversity, who says ENG’s goal is “to broaden and build the pipeline from K-12 schools into engineering.” Photo by Cydney Scott

Expanding the pipeline of high school students interested in engineering is always  a challenge, especially among minority and female students. Yesterday, we came across this article about Boston University’s Inspiration Ambassadors, an idea worth copying.

The Technology Innovation Scholars Program (TISP)…sends ENG undergrads into classrooms as Inspiration Ambassadors to get middle and high school students excited about science and to open their minds to the field as a possible career. Many, as at the Quincy School, are African American or Hispanic, and girls make up roughly half the students.

Read more.

University of Toronto’s Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CEIE)

This state-of-the-art auditorium in the Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship is designed to allow students to work collaboratively in groups and share their findings with the entire class. (Image: Montgomery Sisam Architects Inc. and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios)

Here’s a good article that provides an overview of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

The inverted classroom experience will be part of the very fabric of the CEIE, built directly into its Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) rooms…Rather than sitting in rows, students in the CEIE’s TEAL rooms face each other in groups of four to six people. Screens located throughout the room ensure that each student can see information presented by the professor. Screens also allow students to share individual or group work with the class at large. ‘Ultimately it’s designed to make lecture a more interactive, engaging experience.’

Read more.

Gordon Prize Goes to Worcester Polytechnic University

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) recently presented Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) with the 2016 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education. The honor stems from the school’s creation of  the“WPI Plan,” which gives students ample opportunities throughout their education to tackle authentic problems both in the community and around the world. A recent Donahue Institute evaluation underscored the effectiveness of WPI’s approach in preparing students for future careers. It’s worth noting that the program started in 1970 – kudos to WPI for making a long-term commitment to doing education differently.

Read more here.


Hack of the Week: Starting a Weekly Innovation Challenge

This week’s Hack is from Sridhar Condoor of St. Louis University, a KEEN school – a student challenge to explore the importance of planning and communication. Want to know more? Check out this paper from last year’s ASEE conference.

Have a Hack to share? Hacks are bite-sized ideas to help transform engineering education. Email your idea to us.

New report from the UK addresses engineering education

UK Report2A new report in the United Kingdom by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers proposes a major rethink of the role of that schools and colleges can play in promoting engineering.

The ‘Big Ideas: the future of engineering in schools’ report, supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering, focuses on how to insure that engineering has the presence it deserves in the UK school education system.

The report proposes that pupils should be explicitly taught about engineering and the manufactured world as part of existing lessons from primary level upwards.

The report also recommends broadening routes into the engineering profession by promoting flexible entry requirements for engineering degree courses.

You can download a copy of the report from the Royal Academy of Engineering web site here.

Louisiana Tech launches Maker Month: April 14 through May 18

Louisiana Tech has launched Maker Month, a celebration of all things made. “Maker Month recognizes the shared culture of creativity and making things across our campus and our region”, said Kyle Prather, director of The Thingery, Louisiana Tech’s maker space. “This type of cross-disciplinary culture helps to support a thriving innovative and creative culture on campus and throughout our region.”

Read more.

Maker Month is a product of Louisiana Tech’s Innovation Enterprise. You can learn more by visiting their web site here and their Facebook page here.

Hack of the Week: “Crediting” Students’ Informal Learning

This week’s Hack is from the Pathways team at the University of South Florida. USF is launching a series of “pop-up classes” – short-duration learning opportunities (see here for Stanford’s pop-ups for inspiration). Students still want some documentation of their experience, and USF came up with an ingenious way to do that – creating a “zero-credit” course for each pop-up so that they will show up on students’ official transcripts. Email team leader Sanjukta Bhanja to learn more.

Do you have a Hack to share? Hacks are bite-sized ideas that help transform engineering education. Email us with yours.