Teaching to the Other Side of the Campus: a Honors College Course on Energy

John Reisel professor of Mechanical Engineering at U.W. Milwaukee, describes preparing and teaching a seminar course to non-engineering students offered through the Honors College. The course was a general course about energy as well as issues involving energy associated with transportation, electricity generation, and building systems. The instructor's challenge was finding the appropriate level of coverage of the subject materials, having to teach in a seminar-style format, and setting appropriate expectations for upper-division students from a variety of non-engineering disciplines.

The Art of the Possible

The "Art of the Possible" is the first course of its kind designed to introduce University of British Columbia Arts students (as they are called in Canada) to count toward fulfilling UBC students' science requirement, despite it's not falling under the purview of the Faculty of Science. Even though students would have had only a minimal physical science background, Arts faculty believed that an interesting and useful course would not necessarily have to be easy to attract students from the Arts.

Teaching Modern Urban Infrastructure in a New Modality.

Laura J. Steinberg is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Syracuse University. In 2009, as Dean of Syracuse’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, she applied for an NSF grant to launch courses intended (her term) to “cross pollinate” the creative instincts of engineering students in their design capstone courses with the creative instincts of students in two other departments: Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications and the School of Architecture. Earlier in her career at Tulane University, she had helped formulate the university’s plan for a School of Urban Studies. At Syracuse, she later engaged in designing and teaching cross-campus courses in urban infrastructure and in “algorithmic thinking” for understanding complex current news stories. So, thinking and teaching across disciplinary boundaries was nothing new to her.

Modern Urban Infrastructure.

The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse has one of the oldest highly ranked Masters of Public Administration (MPA) degree programs in the country, possibly the first, having been established 90 years ago. The MPA at Syracuse as elsewhere attracts students and scholars of “public policy” ranging from national and international security, environmental policy, international and development administration. There are two ways of completing the MPA. One is fulltime over one year and the other is extended over several years to accommodate employed professionals. The curriculum requires nine core completions in the sub-fields of public affairs, public budgeting, public administration and democracy, public organizations and management, economics for public decision making, introduction to statistics, quantitative analysis, and executive leadership and policy politics. But until spring 2017, nothing having to do with any of the 14 Engineering Grand Challenges (save one) however these might impact on public services and risks.

 

A first-year course was offered in the Fall of 2016 with the title Thinking Like an Engineer.

Why this course now? The environment into which our students will graduate, and the one that will continue to shape their lives, is an environment increasingly shaped by the thought processes and decisions of engineers. But as the world has become saturated with engineering products and as life has been transformed as a result, many students still have a limited knowledge of how these products work and of the ethical, political, historical, and social dimensions connected with them.

CEE 102 – Engineering in the Modern World - Michael Littman

Engineering in the Modern World focuses on great works of engineering, ones that caused a radical shift in American society, and on a small number of successful key innovators. Three perspectives are used to view engineering: scientific (natural sciences), social (social sciences), and symbolic (humanities). At the same time, engineering is defined through its own categories: structures (civil engineering), machines (mechanical engineering), networks (electrical engineering) and processes (chemical engineering).

 

EGR 100 — Engineering for Everyone — is as an accessible course for all students, regardless of background or intent to major in engineering. …Students develop a sound understanding of the engineering design process including problem definition, background research, identification of design criteria, development of metrics and methods …prototype development and proof of concept testing. Reading assignments and in-class discussions challenge students to critically analyze contemporary issues related to the interaction of technology and society.

So reads the description of Engineering 100 in the Smith College catalog. As is made explicit, the course functions as an introduction to first year students considering an Engineering major at Smith. But what makes EGR 100 unusual is that it is also an overview of engineering for students who want to round out another major, or just get informed - a classic “Gen Ed” course. This means there are no specific prerequisites except interest and willingness to learn, and that the course features articles as well as textbooks, discussion in relatively small sections, and the inclusion (in some cases, a focus) on contemporary issues.

“All the Elements in Place” for a Program

The following review of recent developments at Delaware raises a number of issues faced by other campuses having to do with sustainability and growth of courses about engineering for non engineers. How to maintain a course, for example, that is the product of a single faculty member’s passion and willingness to work overtime to design and teach - after the special circumstances of his or her availability comes to an end? How to populate a course that should attract students from a wide range of other programs and program majors when, because it is cross disciplinary, is hard to get students or faculty advisers across fields to recommend? How to encourage new offerings and avoid redundancy or turf battles at the same time? And, not least, how to cover (fund) the special needs of the course or courses after the initial launch?

 

The first was a radical “new idea” proposed in Maryland's ten-year strategic planning process, by the then provost, Nariman Farvardin, an engineer. Farvardin believed that the professional schools (and not just engineering) should be wholly involved in general education.

Typical of many institutions, Maryland's Gen Ed courses were traditionally focused in the arts and the humanities. The natural sciences needed a significant boost, which would involve what was taught and who was teaching, as well as a focus on subjects at the intersection of disciplines and those that would embed “scholarship and practice.” Where to look for subject matter? How to enable experimentation? What would excite faculty about teaching non-majors, particularly in STEM?

Integrating Design and Engineering in a Liberal Arts Environment

The current exploration of the roles design and engineering might play in the overall Wesleyan curriculum stems from President Michael Roth's interest in pragmatic liberal education. From his days as President of the California College of the Arts, Roth had thought of design and engineering (D&E) as ways of thinking that could have a very productive set of connections to other areas taught at a liberal arts college. Unimpressed by objections that D&E were “vocational” and hence inappropriate for Wesleyan, he took the point of view that a holistic approach to D&E might even become part of the core of liberal education in the future.

 

Forensic Science and Reproductive Technologies

As a result of the Sloan NLA initiative, Larry Kaplan, professor of Chemistry at Williams College, saw an opening for Prof. Tong and himself. He easily envisioned adding new technological tools to “Chemistry and Crime”, a chemistry course for non- science majors he had begun teaching in 1981. In conjunction with Professor Tong, he proposed that they develop a comprehensive, team-taught course in Reproductive Technologies in which he would provide the scientific and technological components and she would explore the ethical and legal issues involved.

The Wellesley case history describes a wide range of initiatives we have taken to integrate STEM into the curriculum.Our goal is to provide our students with opportunities for gaining experience in engineering and technology as human activities not isolated from the concerns of other disciplines. All of the courses involve project-based learning, wherein students are active participants in the enterprise. The contexts range from arts and media to community-based projects in Nicaragua and Cape Verde. These opportunities are available to all students: from those interested in taking only a single course to those who are considering careers in engineering or technology.

 

Roland Heck, a chemical engineer with a 32-year career in industrial research and engineering in the energy industry opted to take early retirement and move to academia in 2000. He secured a position at Princeton University as Associate Dean for Engineering and Applied Science and participated for six years in the teaching of a course entitled Engineering in the Modern World. This course had been developed by Professor David Billington in the mid-1980's to introduce engineering concepts to liberal arts students. (See Princeton Case Study in this collection.) In 2008, Heck decided to shed his administrative duties and teach his own version of the Billington course at his alma mater, the University of Delaware. With the urging of Delaware's Dean of Engineering, Heck developed a technology based first-year colloquium Technology in America for their honors program.

John Krupczak, a mechanical engineer and member of the engineering department at Hope College regularly teaches “Science and Technology of Everyday Life,” (a course he originated in 1995) to non majors, twice yearly, in the spring semester and in an intensive “May Term.” The course surveys the structure and function of modern technology from a systems-thinking perspective both because “systems thinking” illuminates specific technologies Krupczak wants his liberal arts students to become familiar with and as a way for non-engineers to appreciate how engineers think and work. Krupczak's goal is to educate and to empower non-majors, but he is also contributing to the technology education of future generations. That's because his course is required for science education majors and is selected by many elementary education majors as well.

 

Why Stony Brook? Why Now?

The new one-course Tech requirement for general education at Stony Brook University only went into effect in 2014, but was the result of five years of deliberation. According to Associate Provost David Ferguson, long-time Chair of the Department of Technology and Society, the Stony Brook Curriculum, as it is now known, originated in the “strong feeling” of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) that all students should have an understanding of technology and most particularly “the role of engineering in the broader context of global problem solving.” Important for the telling of this story is that the CEAS itself wished to have a role to play in general education.

The Engineering Minor: Two Cases and an Analysis

This review of efforts to develop minors in engineering will focus on Iowa State University's Minor in Engineering Studies (MES) and the Minor in Engineering Sciences at The Ohio State University. Although the program at Iowa State has been temporarily discontinued, faculty at the two institutions have begun to carve out the kinds of steps in stone that a movement to launch engineering minors on a larger scale can build on. The potential demand, the authors believe, is significant because in addition to advancing a student's technological literacy, a minor provides a transcript designation, which will count as a credit if not a credential for graduates entering an ever more technical job market.