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45Power
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re: 'Change' needed in engineering education
45Power   12/18/2008 7:32:20 PM
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I've worked in industry with a BSEE, and in academia as a tenured EE professor after I got my Ph.D., so I've seen both sides of the EE academic experience. I must say the Dean at Stanford is pretty much saying what people have already been saying for at least 15 years now. Many of these reccomendations are already incorporated in most engineering curricula. I think the small number of engineers graduating in the US at least can be traced to a number of factors. There is more competition from other fields like biotechnology than there was 20 years ago. There is also a "culture of entitlement" that seems to have grown among students that prevents them from working hard to master difficult subjects. Engineering, and electrical engineering especially, faces the perennial problem that it is hard to explain to non-specialists what you do, why it is important, and why they should want to join you in it. This is a PR problem that really needs to be fought at the High School and college freshman level. For two long engineering schools have waited for students to come to them, instead of being proactive about recruiting students. The truth is that US engineering schools have had more student capacity than the US needs for a long time, but that fact has been masked by the influx of foreign students for many years. When the US became less foreign-student friendly after 911, and when other nations really stepped up the quality of their engineering education, the US schools really were confronted with the need to recruit good students but weren't prepared to do so effectively. As to the "weed them out" versus "coddle them through" debate, I think that is also somewhat driven by demographics. When you have too many students, you have to "weed out" to some degree, when you have too few, you have to make of them what you can. I think the fact remains that engineering and the physical sciences are just intrinsically difficult. Unless someone has strong personal intrinsic motivation, or sufficient external motivation, they are just not going to put in the hours and endure the pain it takes to master these subjects. Unless you love problem solving, or you perceive great opportunity, or great prestige from being an engineer, you just won't make it past all the obstacles to becoming a productive engineer. Even the most dedicated educator can't make up for a lack of motivation in the student.

cyclone08
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re: 'Change' needed in engineering education
cyclone08   12/18/2008 4:04:12 PM
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As a recent graduate of a good but not great engineering school, my education included all 10 of these things (with the possible exception of number 9 - the courses and lectures are available but not really mentioned other than the course catalog), so I don't really see how any of these constitute "change" in the engineering curriculum.

xrayreality
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re: 'Change' needed in engineering education
xrayreality   12/18/2008 7:28:07 AM
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There was an article similar to this a few months back.... Education has already failed in Engineering. A BS is a generalist that no EE company wants to hire, and a PhD is a specialist that can't compete on salary to his out-source compatriots. The solution is not more EEs but less. A BS should be a just a certificate like the rest of undgrad schooling. An Engineer degree should be a respected full-tilt multi-year advanced program akin to an MD, attorney, or MBA. Minimum 3 years for an MS and 5+ for a Doctor of Engineering, i.e. PhD. There are too many mills out there for current PhDs, which has ruined the already soiled MS program. So many schools have a useless 3+2 program that just shoo graduates out and kill the MS for those that really had to struggle through the curriculum. Moral of the story: graduate LESS EEs and put the MS and PhD at the level of being and MBA or MD. Perhaps ADD 1 year of management to the PhD, since MBAs are grossly unsuited for managing people with advanced degrees as resources.

hyyk
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re: 'Change' needed in engineering education
hyyk   12/18/2008 12:25:44 AM
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I am sure engineering education can be improved, but the opinion offered in this article totally missed the point. Instead of teaching more, they should be teaching less. Entrepreneurship, communication, global knowledge, innovation, creativity are things that should be practiced, not taught. Instead of jamming everything under the sun into an already stuffed 4-year curriculum, school should be giving students opportunities (which means _time_) to practice the aforementioned attributes through extracurricular activities and existing (not additionally new) coursework. On the other hand, I question the actual demands for these attributes. I just graduated from EE recently and from the type of questions asked of me at the job interviews, I am not sure any of those companies would care about half of the changes in that list of 10 proposed. Entrepreneurship? Global knowledge? I don't see them looking for those. My impression is that companies are look for gears (not people) to fit in that big machine of theirs. May be there needs to be further specialization of the EE degree. Instead of a general one, may be there should be a formalized Bachelor of Analog Electronics or Bachelor of Digital Signal Processing and so on. That seems to be reflected by some of the comments anyway. An IC specialist will always think the university hasn't done enough in electronic; a control specialist will always think the university hasn't teach enough control theory.

hyyk
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re: 'Change' needed in engineering education
hyyk   12/18/2008 12:25:38 AM
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I am sure engineering education can be improved, but the opinion offered in this article totally missed the point. Instead of teaching more, they should be teaching less. Entrepreneurship, communication, global knowledge, innovation, creativity are things that should be practiced, not taught. Instead of jamming everything under the sun into an already stuffed 4-year curriculum, school should be giving students opportunities (which means _time_) to practice the aforementioned attributes through extracurricular activities and existing (not additionally new) coursework. On the other hand, I question the actual demands for these attributes. I just graduated from EE recently and from the type of questions asked of me at the job interviews, I am not sure any of those companies would care about half of the changes in that list of 10 proposed. Entrepreneurship? Global knowledge? I don't see them looking for those. My impression is that companies are look for gears (not people) to fit in that big machine of theirs. May be there needs to be further specialization of the EE degree. Instead of a general one, may be there should be a formalized Bachelor of Analog Electronics or Bachelor of Digital Signal Processing and so on. That seems to be reflected by some of the comments anyway. An IC specialist will always think the university hasn't done enough in electronic; a control specialist will always think the university hasn't teach enough control theory.

no clever name
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re: 'Change' needed in engineering education
no clever name   12/17/2008 11:09:32 PM
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There is a certain way your mind must work to be a good engineer, not everyone is cut out to be an engineer. Teaching of math correctly, so the student understands it is tool to solve real problems and is fun, rather than to regurgitate formulas and techniques in grade and high school. There are a huge number of students told, by parents and even by teachers that math is hard. Those teachers actually find teaching math hard, their teaching skills are very poor. Teaching to true critical thinking, is essential Teaching how to go about teaching your self, because in a 40 year career you will have to reinvent your skill set many times if you stay in the field. Sure China and India graduate a lot of "engineers" that have no understanding of the above items. Yet, managers here do not appreciate their engineers nor reward them If I was doing it over, I would go into prosthetics and orthothodics , much easier, pays better and uses a lot of the same skills. Rod

mike@eneboe.org
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re: 'Change' needed in engineering education
mike@eneboe.org   12/17/2008 10:52:54 PM
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...the point of the MIT and Berkeley example was that, yes, rigorous mathematical background is good, but for some companies it is focused on instead of time spent on getting products to market. "Perfect" is the enemy of "good". We need our engineers to be very good, not perfect.

mike@eneboe.org
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re: 'Change' needed in engineering education
mike@eneboe.org   12/17/2008 10:47:23 PM
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I think some of the comments missed the main points. 1) Yes, it is important for the curriculum to be rigorous, but it also needs to be practical. Being confident with math, science, electronics, and mechanical systems (to name a few) is already a "filter." Wasting time and resources larding up engineering education with punitive classes and unreasonable homework instead of hand-on, pragmatic challenges is ridiculous. I've seen people from MIT and Berkeley who were horrible engineers at producing products in volume, but were fantastic at detailed and necessary solutions to semiconductor modeling (as an example). 2) Business, interpersonal, communication skills allow engineers to more successfully integrate with the whole ecosystem. If all you commenters think that engineers are underpaid (which I won't argue with you), then you should consider how much more valuable the engineer would be if they could go to the executives and say, "Hey, if you do this, then that, I can make you an extra $10M." Then engineers would get significant salary increases and companies would not go offshore just to save money.

Phluph
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re: 'Change' needed in engineering education
Phluph   12/17/2008 9:37:24 PM
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I agree with Truant - the education must NOT be made easier. A particular pet peeve with me is that from what I've seen and heard from graduates over the past 10 years or so is that the basics of all electronics - rudimentary ac/dc circuit theory, Ohms law, transistor theory, etc is no longer taught! Show a recent 4 year grad a simple RC network or a Butterworth filter and ask them to explain how it works and they look at you like you came from another planet. When it *is* covered it is only very briefly and almost as an afterthought. This should be at least a full semester in electronics 101. Knowing how an encapsulated circuit (IC) works is fine but knowing WHY it works and how its innards operate is far better. Only by groking the hows and whys of theory can one go beyond 'use chip-A tied to chip-b and processed with algorithm-C and get result-D' to actually being able to design new circuits or troubleshoot problems. Again, yes this will most likely weed out some folks. Tough cookies. At least those who stick with it will be able properly do their job once they are out of school. Current education is concentrating on black-box IC's and digital processing. Err, hate to say this folks but it's an analog world we live in. Digital processing is great BUT - you need an analog front end and output to tie the circuits to the Real World. Many of my customers are chip foundries with some very sharp people but a very common complaint from management is: "Where can we find people who know analog circuits? We make cell phone chips - heavily digital - but they need audio circuits and RF circuits as well..." The most common recourse they have is to hopefully have an old-timer like me around to fill in the huge gaps in graduates educations. Cheers!

J. D.
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re: 'Change' needed in engineering education
J. D.   12/17/2008 9:27:44 PM
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Engineering Professionals need to be 110% "on" - 24/7 for Your Employer plus be willing to take on new Training during Your "off" time.... in case You are needed to "help-out" Your Replacement that Your Position is being "off-shored" to.

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