SAN FRANCISCO--If you're lucky enough to have one of your kids
interested in following in your engineering footsteps, now is a time
of great stress. Which engineering school is going to be the right
fit? It's applications time, and the choices seem infinite.
But there's hope: The
National Academy of
Engineering recently released a report that may gave you
some ammo, especially if you're looking for schools that emphasize
an integrated, real-world-experience approach to their engineering
curricula. The report, "Infusing Real World Experiences into
Engineering Education," details 29 engineering programs at colleges
and universities across the country that NAE considers progressive
in this way. It breaks up its analysis into segments such as
capstone programs, first-year programs, extracurricular programs,
co-op programs and basic curricula, among others.
AMD sponsored the project as part of its NextGen Engineering
“Simply mastering technical engineering is no longer enough to
successfully compete and lead in today’s marketplace,” Mark
Papermaster, AMD’s senior vice president and CTO, said when the
program kicked off.
The report raises eyebrows--in a good way. For instance:
Grand Valley State.
Who? This unheralded engineering program in Allendale, Mich., was
cited for its 25-year-old coop program which prepares graduating
engineers who are “industry ready.”
Other programs of note:
Arizona State's iProjects
program, which began in 2008, is open to all 35
degree programs in the five primary units within ASU's College
of Technology and Innovation. The iProjects program uses large
numbers of team-based projects, and recognizes that
"traditional academic degree program structures do not engender
pervasive interdisciplinary practicebased work."
Worcester Polytechnic offers a first-year program (first
year!) titled "Great
Problems Seminars" that gives provide students
project experience that prepares them for more substantial
required projects. These projects can focus either on an area
such as energy or healthcare or can analyze the NAE Grand
Purdue engineering's EPICS (Engineering
Projects in Community Service) program gives
students credit for participating in multidisciplinary design
teams that real problems for local and global not-for-profit
I mention this for two reasons. First, as a parent of kid in
college, I know every little bit of information helps in decision
making. But, second, this highlights an encouraging trend in
engineering schools (even though industry leaders like Bob
Dobkin at Linear and Tunc
Doluca at Maxim offer some different perspectives).
While we can't ignore the fundamentals of engineering education, we
need to think bigger and differently about preparing the generation
of engineers that will deal with tomorrow's problems.
I'm interested in your experiences: Have you assessed engineering
schools, either for yourself or your kids, with the NAE's real-world
experience criterion in mind?
“industry ready” - that's the key today, really, isn't it. So many new grads just can't get a job because of that awful catch 22 of "no job experience, no job." Any college that can get itself a reputation as a place where kids not only learn, but actually DO, is really doing their graduates a huge favor. I'd take that over a prestigious name any day.
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