Connections - Providing Interesting and Useful Information for Engineering Faculty American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
February 2011 Subscribe
In This Issue:
    • Master's Degree Growth Set to Continue

    • GOP Proposed Budget Cuts would Hit Research Funding
    • Sen. Alexander Gains Some Sway Over DOE Research
    • Quick Take: The GOP's Proposed Spending Hit List
    • House Energy Chairman wants to Nix Vague Language

    • Great Communicators

    • To Advance, We Must Change

    • A Selection of Current Job Openings

    • Free Webinar for ASEE Members
    • NEW! Fun Rhyming Book for Kids!
    • New CASEE Website for High School and Middle School Students
    • ASEE's Eighth Annual Workshop on K-12 Engineering Education

    • Upcoming in March's Prism Magazine

    • Do you have a comment or suggestion for Connections?

Products & Programs

I. Databytes

Master's Degree Growth Set to Continue

Master's degrees have increased by 4.5 percent since the 2003-04 academic year.  The fields listed below have led this growth. Enrollment trends indicate that growth in these fields will continue. Overall master's degrees are also set to increase significantly in the near term.

Engineering Master's Degree Growth since 2004
  2004 2009 % Change
Aerospace 915 1,075 17.5%
Biomedical 862 1,396 61.9%
Engineering Mgmt 1,764 2,240   27%
Nuclear 197 264 34%
Total Master's 39,837 41,632 4.5%

Other data trends can be viewed at



II. Congressional Hotline


Declaring that "Washington's spending spree is over," Budget panel chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)  announced limits for the remainder of the current fiscal year that fall $74 billion below President Obama's budget request and $32 billion below current spending levels. Writing in ScienceInsider, Jeff Mervis reports the allocations mean double-digit cuts for the appropriations subcommittees that fund most civilian basic research: "The panel that controls the budgets of the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Commerce would get 16% less money than in 2010 and 11% less than President Obama has requested for the current, 2011 fiscal year. The panel that oversees the Department of Energy would receive 10% less than in 2010 and 15% less than the president's request. The panel that oversees the National Institutes of Health and the Education Department would receive 8% less than the president's request and 4% less than in 2010." The Senate is expected to resist the cuts.


Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced that he'll be the ranking Republican on the Senate appropriations panel that funds the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers. The post no longer comes with earmark clout -- even Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye acknowledges the days of earmarks are over -- but it will give Alexander plenty of influence over DOE-funded research and over water projects.


President Obama fired the opening salvo in his State of the Union: "Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people." Quick to respond was Rep. Ralph Hall (R, Tex.), a member of the Tea Party Caucus who chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. "While appropriate investments in science and technology are important, they must be made prudently within the confines of a disciplined budget," he said in a statement. He faulted Obama's focus on clean energy, "which suggests an emphasis not on basic research, but on commercialization. These are activities often best left to the private sector." And he noted the absence in Obama's speech of anything substantive on space, something his panel wants to stress with its own name change. "I am disappointed that the President used this moment only to reflect on NASA's history, rather than promoting a strong vision for the future of space exploration."


The Spending Reduction Act introduced by the Republican Study Committee, representing nearly three-fourths of all House Republicans, aims to cut $2.5 trillion in government spending over the next decade. Companion legislation has been introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). Among $330 billion worth of program cuts: The National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities; the Economic Development Administration, which funds university centers throughout the country; U.S. contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; applied research sponsored by the Department of Energy;  the Technology Innovation Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology; NIST's Manufacturing Extension Partnerships; and the Department of Housing and Urban Development's doctoral dissertation research grants.

Higher education provisions that would be repealed include one to improve STEM education among Native populations in Alaska and Hawaii; the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies, and technology help for minority-serving institutions.


Congressional authorization bills frequently resort to the vague "such sums as may be necessary" language to fund new programs. No longer, if Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) gets his way. The new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee says his panel will no longer consider legislation containing such language. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Policy Alert, Upton says such language "cedes spending authority to appropriators and gives agency heads excessive leeway . . . "






How engineering instructors adapt to the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students
By Jaimie Schock

Eight students are having an animated discussion about automated systems, but the room is almost soundless. One of them asks a question, using only hand movements and facial expressions. Then instructor Scott Bellinger responds and breaks the silence, interspersing spoken words with American Sign Language and its more rigid cousin, signed English.

Welcome to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and its problem-solving approach to overcoming the educational disadvantages faced by students who are deaf or hard of hearing (d/hh). Part of the Rochester Institute of Technology, the 1,200-student NTID is America's only technical college for d/hh students. Before joining its teaching faculty seven years ago, Bellinger, an assistant professor of engineering who is not deaf, spent a year mastering the complicated, vision-based ASL and signed English. But he and other instructors know that more is required of them if d/hh students are to get a cutting-edge STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

Many of the school's students struggle with reading comprehension, in part because of the differences between ASL and spoken or written English. An added challenge is the disparity in educational backgrounds among the students, who come from across the country. Dino Lauria, an NTID alumnus who now heads its engineering studies department, says some students grew up in "mainstream sectors," where they may not have had enough access to appropriate services and tools needed for d/hh students. Conversely, some may come from state-sponsored schools for the deaf, where the right tools are available but where STEM education is severely hindered by a lack of funding. In addition, states vary in high school graduation requirements, resulting in students arriving at NTID with drastically different needs and skills.

NTID students bring different gradations of deafness and competence in signed English and ASL. That's why Bellinger and other hearing instructors use the two sign languages and also their voices, facing the class so their lips can be read. They're also careful to calibrate the pace of their classes. They know, for instance, that students can't follow what a teacher is saying and view a PowerPoint at the same time. In all teaching of d/hh students, "the challenge is to maintain the communication" and maintain a lively class, Lauria says. Every detail of the classroom experience should be d/hh accessible, instructors say, and teachers need to familiarize themselves with different assistive technologies, such as cochlear implants and teletypewriters. Knowledge of social norms within deaf culture, such as rules of etiquette for gaining attention, and getting into and leaving conversations, is also important.

Because of inadequate preparation in math and English, many NTID students struggle to master word problems and understand the written instructions for other math assignments. Bellinger, who spent two decades in industry as an automation and robotics engineer, has devised a solution. Called the StepWise method, it's a step-by-step guide to solving scientific, technological, or mathematical word or story problems. If the student comes up with an answer that is wrong or doesn't make sense, or if the units don't match what was expected, students return to the formula-picking step and go through the process again.

The method was first tested in Bellinger's Mechanical Devices and Systems class last year and has since been used in other NTID classes. Students compared across two classes did 16 percent better with StepWise worksheets than those without. After Bellinger and several colleagues presented a research paper on his method at the 2010 ASEE Annual Conference, other educators embraced it as suitable not only for d/hh learners but hearing students as well.

NTID recognizes a need for one-on-one mentoring of students, including continuous academic advising and support from a department chairperson; technical, math, and English faculty members; and an academic counselor.

But Bellinger finds hands-on projects outside of class to be effective as well, and has incorporated a personal hobby into his teaching. "I've been building and riding electric bikes since 1979," he says. He formed NTID's first electric bicycle club, which has participated in a contest every year since 2006, something Bellinger calls a "win-win" for both the students and himself. He and Ronald Till, chairman of NTID's industrial and science technologies department, served as interpreters for the students. In order to keep up with all the commands, communication had to happen quickly and efficiently. Bellinger found that his signing ability improved. "It's a fabulous experience," he says.

In 2006, NTID's team won first and second place in the student division of the $10,000 Around Town Vehicle Competition, which judges teams on practicality, acceleration, handling, range, good fuel efficiency, and low climate-change emissions. That same year, the team also won second and third place overall in the international Tour de Sol electric bicycle competition, held in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. NTID's entry into Tour de Sol, which is volunteer-run and sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, marked the first time in the contest's 18 years that a d/hh team had competed. Contest organizers made some modifications to accommodate d/hh contestants. For example, other riders now use flags to signal d/hh competitors when a horn is sounded as a warning.

Similarly, the engineering studies faculty members participate in the FIRST robotics regional competition with a local school for the deaf. According to Lauria, "This sets several examples of faculty sharing contents, providing in-class mentorships, and volunteering [for] school-based activities simultaneously."

Believing that early outreach is key, Bellinger works with middle and high schools to draw d/hh students into STEM fields. He sits on a panel for high school students that focuses on career plans. Through the Board of Cooperative Educational Services Program, which provides shared educational resources, Bellinger has reached out to high school students, both d/hh and hearing, to bring engineering to them as a possible career path. This role also allows him to determine what about outreach education has and has not worked in recruiting students.

The education of d/hh students may require unique skills and approaches, but in one respect it's no different from teaching any other group of students. When an instructor obviously cares about getting his students to learn, they tend to react the way that Ethan Young, an automation technology major, did after taking a Programming Logic Controllers class taught by Bellinger: "He's a good teacher."



IV. JEE Selects



A special centennial issue explores rigor in research, diversity promotion, and integration of disciplines
By Caroline Baillie, Edmond Ko, Wendy Newstetter, and David Radcliffe

To mark 100 years of the Journal of Engineering Education, a special January issue reflects on the emergence of engineering education as a research-based discipline and explores what the future holds. The six papers presented are intended to encourage thinking that reaches beyond preparing students for the profession. They address key challenges in the field, examine ways that engineering education might be advanced through research, and explore recent and exciting developments in engineering education research. We hope they will inspire innovation and stimulate needed change.

The papers underscore the point that education research and practice are mutually dependent. Efficient and effective advances in practice require the same quality of research design and intellectual rigor that underpin technological advances. We look forward to a time when, as in industry, new practices arise from an intentional research-and-development cycle.

A recurrent theme is the need to promote and sustain diversity in engineering practice, education, and education research. The connotation used here implies tolerance of and respect for difference and, even more, a desire to embrace and celebrate variety. Diverse, even oppositional voices can be found in these papers as researchers and thinkers both in the field and outside are invited to "converse." We note that while our engineering education research community is drawn from different disciplines and traditions, it is still very Western centric. As we move forward, we need to address how we can embrace a broader community of researchers, teachers, students, and engineers, and what we can do to bring in different cultural traditions and ways of thinking and being.

A less overt theme, but one that inherently pervades any discussion of the past or the future of engineering education, is a trend toward interdisciplinarity and integration, and even toward establishment of novel disciplinary formulations. New subdisciplines such as materials science, bioengineering, and environmental engineering, to name three, challenge the boundaries of historically distinct practice communities.

We hope that this special issue will appeal to a diverse range of readers from many countries, including academics, administrators, and researchers across all disciplines related to engineering education. All the papers included make clear that for either instructional practices or engineering education research to advance, engineering educators will need to change some of their perspectives and behavior. Change, however, does not come easily or automatically. We anticipate that the new insights offered by the authors will inspire action and innovation based on research and scholarship utilizing diverse perspectives and coming from multiple voices.

In turn, we hope the arguments raised here will enable and empower engineering faculty and administrators to tackle major challenges in their particular historical, socio-political, and cultural context. We further hope this leads to more active, interdisciplinary, and international collaborations between engineering educators and engineering education researchers and scholars in advancing engineering, however we define it, and engineering education, wherever and however we practice it.

Caroline Baillie is Winthrop Professor and chair of engineering education at the University of Western Australia; Edmond Ko is director of the Center for Engineering Education Innovation at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Wendy Newstetter is director of learning sciences research in the Coulter biomedical engineering department at the Georgia Institute of Technology; David Radcliffe is Kamyar Haghighi Head of Engineering Education at Purdue University. This article is adapted from the Guest Editors' Foreword in the January 2011 Journal of Engineering Education.




Job-hunting? Here are a few current openings:

1. Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering -- 1 opportunity

2. Electrical Engineering -- 2 opportunities

3. Electronic Engineering -- 1 opportunity

4. Structural Engineering -- 1 opportunity

Visit here for details:




Free Webinar for ASEE Members

Transforming the Freshman "Cornerstone" Design Course Through Modeling and Simulation
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 2:00 PM ET

The freshman design course, or "cornerstone" course, is a critical component of the curriculum at most institutions. The modern incarnation of this course integrates general design and analysis concepts and the application of computing tools such as CAD.  This webinar presents a detailed case study of the recent McMaster University initiative to enrich its cornerstone course. The key new element is the introduction of a dynamic modeling software package to allow students to analyze and explore the system dynamics, and ultimately the design options, for a real system.

The contents of this webinar include:

• Motivation and the core pedagogy framing the initiative
• Fundamental elements of the new course
• Technical challenges in introducing advanced modeling and simulation tools into the freshman curriculum
• Progress thus far and future challenges
• Discussion and Q & A

Register today at:

If I Were an Engineer cover

NEW! Fun Rhyming Book for Kids!

"If I Were an Engineer" is ASEE's fun, colorful rhyming book that introduces engineering to kids from ages 5 to 8. Click the link to check out sample pages as well as our new introductory kit (one book, one mag, a pack of cards & poster). Limited quantities, so get 'em while they're hot! Sample pages

Buy the kids' book or intro kit 

New CASEE Website for High School and Middle School Students!

"An Engineering Education Makes a World of Difference" is a new CASEE website that highlights role models who have used an engineering education to innovate products, processes, and services that improve human health, welfare, and happiness.  Twice a week for each week from Monday, January 31 through Thursday, July 14, a new video will be posted which can be "pushed" to individual cell phones.  Site visitors can upload their own videos of role model engineers to be considered for addition to the site.   Visit -

ASEE's Eighth Annual Workshop on K-12 Engineering Education

ASEE's Eighth Annual Workshop on K-12 Engineering Education

ASEE's eighth annual Workshop on K-12 Engineering Education will be held on Saturday, June 25, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada one day before the opening of the annual conference. This daylong program for teachers and engineering educators from both Canada and the United States will provide a fast-paced, interactive, results-oriented overview of engineering education for the K-12 classroom.  Attendees will discover valuable best practices, new contacts for collaboration, and the latest take-away tools for effective teaching about engineering education.

Please visit

Call for Proposals are now being sought by the Proposal Committee for the K-12 Engineering Education workshop. Those interested in submitting a proposal are invited to go to:

Deadline for submission: March 18, Friday, 5PM EST.

An overview of the workshop is available at:

NOTE: Workshops should prominently feature hands-on classroom activities, provide take-home or classroom-ready materials and be designed to engage participants in interactive exercises. Workshops that offer tangible material to attendees, in addition to written material, are specifically solicited.

For any additional information, please feel free to contact Libby Martin at:




Upcoming in March's Prism Magazine

COVER STORY: A profile of Subra Suresh, National Science Foundation director.

Feature One: Is time running out for Moore's Law, the theory that integrated circuits double their performance approximately every one to two years?

Feature Two:  Project ENGAGE aims to boost retention with proven, research-based classroom strategies.




Do you have a comment or suggestion for Connections? Please let us know. Email us at: Thanks.



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