October 2012 Subscribe
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National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES): Welcome to the new FE exam
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National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES)
Using the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam as an outcomes assessment tool.
www.ncees.org

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Webinar: Challenges and Solutions for Engineering Educators
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ASEE's Exclusive New "Engineering Education Suppliers Guide"
A new online resource designed specifically to help engineering educators locate products and services for the classroom and research.
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I. Databytes

Upper Decile Salaries for Select Fields: 2011-2012

ASEE collected salary data from 139 public and private engineering institutions for the 2011-2012 academic year. The salaries here represent the average of the upper deciles paid to tenured/tenure-track faculty in seven fields. The salaries are based on a 9-month equivalent. They do not include administrative supplements.


Upper Decile Salaries for Select Fields: 2011-2012
Department Assistant Professor Associate Professor Full Professor
Biomedical $88,971 $110,748 $181,603
Chemical $90,516 $102,589 $170,158
Civil & Environmental $84,643 $100,306 $151,885
Computer Science (inside eng.) $94,869 $108,833 $170,252
Electrical & Computer $90,160 $107,315 $161,933
Industrial & Manufacturing $84,100 $105,972 $157,408
Mechanical $85,723 $101,634 $154,013

Source: ASEE

Other data trends can be viewed at www.asee.org/colleges.

 

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II. Congressional Hotline

McCain, White House Spar Over Sequestration Notices

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reacted sharply after the Obama administration sought to tamp down alarm over sequestration. The White House and Pentagon have told defense contractors not to send out notices in early November -- just before the election -- warning employees of possible job cuts. Such notices could be particularly problematic for the president in Virginia, a swing state where Obama seems to be leading and where many defense firms are headquartered. The administration promised contractors that if they faced litigation as a result, the government would pick up the tab. McCain responded that he would use his clout as ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services committee to block any such reimbursements. Later, joined by GOP colleague Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, McCain went further, CQ and other news outlets reported. The pair sent a letter to 15 defense contractors citing the federal law requiring notices to go out 60 days before possible layoffs. Failure to comply, they warned, could open the companies up to "serious legal and financial complications."


U.S. House of Representatives

House Defeats STEM Green Card Measure

The House recently rejected 257-158 a bill to provide green cards to 55,000 foreign workers with advanced STEM degrees from U.S. universities. The measure, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), would not increase the overall number of green cards but instead eliminate 55,000 visas now granted through a lottery. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) charged: "Republicans are only willing to increase legal immigration for immigrants they want by eliminating legal immigration for immigrants they don't want." The GOP-led House did not vote on competing legislation by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would add new STEM visas but protect those assigned by lottery.


NACME

Black Lawmakers Discuss STEM Achievement Gap

Closing the achievement gap was a topic at the recent Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative caucus. Among participants was Irving McPhail, head of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME). Panel discussions included "Improving Our Teachers, Creating More Mentors and Developing More Leaders in STEM."


 

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III. TEACHING TOOLBOX

Teaching Toolbox

Hands-on Mathematics

Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus Tailored for Engineers Help Boost Retention and Student Success

By Mary Lord

It’s orientation season and dozens of University of Vermont freshmen and their families have filed into Votey Hall, home of the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, for some academic survival tips from Joan Marie Rosebush, the college’s director of student success and, not coincidentally, a senior math instructor. “Math is the most important course you’ll take,” she tells the newcomers. “If you’re not solid, you’re just asking for trouble.” Indeed, the inability of incoming freshmen to advance past the traditional introductory calculus sequence – the prerequisite for statics, dynamics, and other core engineering courses – has become a leading cause of attrition and a major challenge for engineering programs nationwide. “It’s worse than a gatekeeper. It’s a bottleneck,” contends Nathan Klingbeil, senior associate dean and professor of mechanical and materials engineering at Wright State University.

Vermont, Wright State, the University of Utah, and Cornell, among other schools, are working to eliminate that bottleneck with math curricula designed for engineering students who arrive at college ill-prepared or rusty. Introducing streamlined precalculus, interactive online summer classes, math with engineering applications, and small-group problem solving guided by teaching assistants, they’ve eased students’ entry to engineering and seen improved retention and graduation rates. In the process, they have pinpointed and sought to build upon important differences in the analytical skills required of mathematicians and engineers.

Summer Refresher

After finding that many freshmen weren’t ready for calculus, Vermont’s Rosebush whittled down a precalculus course, preserving the rigor and textbook but focusing on the math needed for physics. Rosebush also offers incoming engineers an online, no-pressure summer math refresher course, a cross between Khan Academy visuals and small-group tutorial, with step-by-step calculations and student responses. The idea, she says, is to have math “not just for the ones who do belong in engineering, but for those students who think engineering is for them.” The school offers evening drop-in tutoring sessions during the semester, and Rosebush teaches a freshman calculus section that meets five mornings a week instead of the usual four, building confidence as well as competence.

Back in 2003, Wright State was losing most of its aspiring engineers before they completed the required calculus sequence. Today, first-year retention has reached an all-time high, student performance in math and engineering continues to rise, and graduation rates have soared. What changed? Wright State replaced the traditional math prerequisites for core sophomore-level courses with EGR 101, Introductory Mathematics for Engineering Applications, which delivers only the algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and other math topics actually used in physics, circuits, computer programming, and other engineering fundamentals. Developed by Klingbeil and colleague Kuldip Rattan, EGR 101 is taught exclusively by engineering faculty and student TAs, whose lectures, labs, and recitations provide physical context to math. “When you teach math for the sake of math, you develop problem solving and critical thinking skills, but you don’t develop an ability to transition between applications,” says Klingbeil. By letting students move ahead in the curriculum before finishing the required calculus sequence, EGR 101 has pushed engineering graduation rates to 40 percent, compared with 15 percent for those who didn’t take the course.

“The Derivative: What is it, and why do engineers need to know it?” is how EGR 101 introduces calculus. Rather than focus on the equations, Klingbeil has students drop a ball and measure the time to impact. An engineer, he says, would want to know the ball’s average velocity and speed at impact. The first is just distance divided by time. To calculate the latter, however, students must measure the velocity of the ball at different points as it drops, eventually connecting their results to the slope — the definition of the derivative.

To convey Newton’s laws, Klingbeil asks students to calculate the stopping time of a braking car. “There’s not a freshman engineering kid in the country who doesn’t understand that,” he says. Manipulatives also help instill understanding. For example, co-developer Rattan uses one- and two-linked robots to teach trigonometry, which is “the way you actually use trig,” says Klingbeil. Students can take the link, measure it, and plug their results into a formula to see if it works, rather than having to “remember a bunch of trig identities.”

Joshua Deaton is “one of the textbook cases” of a first-year engineering student doomed to derail at Wright State. “I never would have persevered through the calculus,” which his rural Ohio high school didn’t offer. Such EGR 101 engineering examples as figuring the area of asphalt needed to widen a truck entrance — a problem from Klingbeil’s co-op experiences — “saved me,” he contends, and helped switch his mind-set from “I’m doing math to I’m using math to analyze something.” Deaton earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering with highest honors in 2009. Now pursuing a Ph.D., he is one of a number of grad student teaching assistants called upon to apply the new freshman pedagogy contained in EGR 101.

When not using complex algorithms to design and model aircraft structures, Deaton is helping freshmen understand differential equations by examining the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster. Because he remembers what was “really hard,” he knows which sections his freshmen will stumble over and tailors examples accordingly. Deaton also has written MATLAB programming guides while other TAs have rewritten labs to make difficult topics less daunting. He often calls students to the board and says, “You, come up and solve it.” And no one leaves the room “until everyone gets the problem,” he says. “I’m notorious.”

Incorporating Earth Challenges

Poor student results on an engineering professor’s math placement test at first had University of Utah engineering and mathematics faculty yelling at each other. But now they are revising, together, the first two years of undergraduate engineering math.

The first course, which debuts this fall, will cover single-variable calculus, vector geometry, algebra, and the calculus of parametric curves. It is the beginning of an accelerated four-semester core sequence that formerly took five semesters. Each course will explore engineering applications in TA-led small-group labs, with videos created by every engineering department supplementing lectures and providing the basis for homework problems and class projects. For example, chemical engineering professor and associate chair Geoff Silcox has developed modules on current environmental challenges that involve engineering math, such as the depletion of world oil reserves and the build-up of pollution in lakes. His challenge: Finding examples that didn’t “go well beyond” the students’ engineering background. Utah also is investing heavily to keep class sizes small, train teachers, and intervene with strugglers. “The bottom line is increasing the number of high-quality engineering graduates,” says Peter Trapa, math department chair.

For engineers, “It’s not enough just to know the math,” says Cornell math instructor Maria Shea Terrell, who serves on a multidisciplinary panel working to refine the school’s 50-year-old engineering math offerings. Students might understand a concept, she says, “but that ability to apply it is a separate skill.”

To help students figure out how to turn an engineering problem into a mathematical one, Terrell and her colleagues in engineering and math developed materials with an engineering context. A query on surface intervals, for example, might ask the volumetric flow rate of water as it pours through a pipe cut at different angles. As teaching assistants move from table to table, posing questions that steer group discussions, students converge on the correct answer: a bucket would fill at the same rate because the flux across the pipe’s surface never changes, no matter how it is cut. In a traditional math class, students rarely get to see which concept is right for the job.

Engineering math’s applications approach certainly has appeal. Cornell student surveys routinely give the course high marks. Supported by $4.6 million in National Science Foundation grants, Wright State’s model is now under consideration by more than two dozen institutions nationwide, including Oklahoma State University, the University of Tulsa, and the University of Toledo. Whether engineering math takes root beyond a handful of innovators and pilot programs remains to be seen. That certainly is Klingbeil’s aim. “We’re trying to propose an engineering solution to the way engineering education works in this country,” he says. “It needs to be mandatory, and it needs to be wide scale… We’re trying to fix a national problem here.” With the president calling for universities to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year, it doesn’t take a genius to do that math.

 

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IV. National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) (Sponsored Content)

Using the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam as an outcomes assessment tool.

Institutions of higher education are increasingly being encouraged to evaluate their academic programs with reference to a national standard. This pressure may be a result of accreditation requirements, or it may come from legislators who want to assign cost-benefit labels and measure the effectiveness of higher education.

One available program-assessment tool is the NCEES FE exam. About 50,000 examinees take the FE each year. Most of them are college seniors within one year of graduating or are recent graduates. Developed to measure minimum technical competence, the FE exam is the first step in the professional licensing of engineers. The exam’s design also allows it to be used to assess competency in particular curriculum areas.

NCEES provides an institution- and degree-specific report, known as the Subject Matter Report, that details the performance of

  • Currently enrolled students at your institution who take the FE exam (average percentage of correct questions)
  • Students nationally (average percentage of correct questions and standard deviation in each topic area)
  • Your institution’s Carnegie classification (average percentage of correct questions)

Using these comparators, universities will be able to gauge their students’ performance against national averages or against the performance of students from comparable institutions. NCEES sends these reports to institutions electronically.

“Educators can use our exams to objectively measure progress toward program goals, which is a key part of ABET program assessment,” said NCEES Past President Dave Whitman, Ph.D., P.E. “Effective assessment should result in continuous program improvement.”

Upcoming survey
If you are your institution’s contact for subject matter reports, you should receive a survey from NCEES in November about usage of the reports and how the reports can be improved.  Please be on the look out for the survey. Your input is important in helping NCEES provide you with the information you need.

For more information about the FE as an outcomes assessment tool, visit ncees.org/educators.

 

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V. JEE Selects

JEE Selects

‘At-Risk’ or Ill-served?

Analysis of a Large-Scale Survey Upsets some Notions of Why Students Leave Engineering

By Elizabeth Litzer and Jacob Young

The drive for improved retention of engineering undergraduates demands a better grasp of why some of them leave the field. To understand the risk of attrition more clearly, we chose to deviate from conventional measures and instead used quantitative survey responses from more than 9,000 undergraduates at 21 engineering schools to examine qualitative differences among students. We grouped students using a novel method and multiple measures and examined how individual characteristics and student experiences and perceptions caused them to fall into one or another group. Our study revealed the dire consequences of a poor educational climate and negative student experiences in the first year and produced insights that can help researchers and practitioners think anew about attrition.

Using latent class analysis, we found that students fell into one of three groups: Committed (52 percent of the sample), characterized by their strong commitment to engineering as a major and intention to complete the degree; Committed With Ambivalence (41 percent), who were more ambivalent about engineering but still intended to graduate with an engineering degree; and At Risk of Attrition (7 percent), characterized by even greater ambivalence about their engineering major and a weaker commitment to graduating with an engineering degree.

We used a multinomial regression model to examine the relationship between a variety of covariates and membership in each commitment group. Consistent with prior research, students with the lowest risk of attrition were more likely than students in the other groups to feel a sense of community and collaboration with their peers, have higher academic confidence, experience high-quality teaching from professors, and feel more strongly that engineers contribute to society. Those who were less confident, who experienced negative interactions with peers and instructors, and who held negative perceptions of engineering as a field were less likely to be committed.

But our study provided new findings about race, perceptions of work-family balance, transfer, grades, and the effect of feeling overwhelmed by homework. For instance, students from racial and ethnic backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented in science and engineering were no more likely than overrepresented students to be at risk of attrition. Taking covariates into account, we found that the differences between African-Americans and whites – and between males and females – mainly reflected differences in student experiences and perceptions.

Freshmen are much more likely to be in the At Risk of Attrition group than in the Committed group. They are highly susceptible to the environment around them, and experiences in the first year may lead them straight into non-engineering majors. Transfer students enter engineering programs with a high level of commitment to graduation and desire to be in the major, validating the view that they represent an important source of diversity. The relationship of GPA to the risk of attrition is revealing: Students with higher GPAs are more likely to be in Committed With Ambivalence and At Risk of Attrition groups. And while conventional wisdom suggests that overwhelmed students would be most likely to leave engineering, the study suggests that these students are also the most committed.

Our results provide further evidence of the need to update the engineering curriculum, and underscore the important role of faculty in creating respectful environments and providing high-quality instruction. Engineering colleges and departments play a key role in the quality of the student experience and ultimately in the retention of engineering students.

Elizabeth Litzler is director for research at the University of Washington’s Center for Workforce Development. Jacob Young is an assistant professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. Their study used data from the UW center’s Project to Assess Climate in Engineering, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. This article was adapted from “Understanding the Risk of Attrition in Undergraduate Engineering” in the April, 2012 Journal of Engineering Education.

 

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VI. JOBS, JOBS, JOBS

Job-hunting? Here are a few current openings:

1. Architectural Engineering -- 1 opportunity

2. Civil and Environmental Engineering -- 3 opportunities

3. Physics -- 1 opportunity

Visit here for details:
http://www.asee.org/classifieds

 

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VII. Free Webinars for Engineering Educators


Webinar: Challenges and Solutions for Engineering Educators

This webinar will illustrate how advanced physical modeling and simulation technology can offer increased capabilities for educators, and is also easy and intuitive enough to be used by undergrads so they can gain greater insight into the nature of physical systems.

To register, go to www.maplesoft.com/asee




 

RECORDED WEBINAR:
Welcome the Future FE

Watch the NCEES and ASEE webinar to prepare you for the transition of the FE and FS exams to computer-based testing (CBT). Find out why the CBT development is happening and how the change will affect you and your students.

View the Webinar Now


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VIII. COMMUNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS

Survey: Do entrepreneurship and innovation fit in engineering education?

Survey reminder: Do entrepreneurship and innovation fit in engineering education?

There is still time to weigh in on this issue by participating in a 5-minute survey funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) at Stanford University.

The survey aims to identify attitudes, experiences and practices of engineering faculty, students and professionals. Your responses will help inform educators and institutions on the potential contribution of entrepreneurship and innovation to engineering education.

As a respondent, you will be invited to an exclusive webinar on the survey results before they are available to the public.

Take the survey >>

 

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IX. FACULTY WORKSHOPS

FACULTY WORKSHOPS

ASEE has two upcoming workshops. For more information, please click on the hyperlinks below:


  1. Engineering Academic Leadership Workshop
    November 1, 2012

  2. National Effective Teaching
    Institute (NETI) - 1B

    January 4 - 6, 2013

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X. PRISM ONLINE

October 2012 edition of Prism magazine online

Check out the October 2012 edition of Prism magazine online, including these features:

COVER STORY: BOLD EXPERIMENT
Universities face new competition as elite schools offer course certificates to the online masses.

ALSO:

SILICON SPOOKS
How the CIA turned venture capitalism into a high-tech intelligence tool.

MIRACLE MATERIAL
Miracle Material Conductive and flexible yet harder than a diamond, graphene could revolutionize industries from electronics to aeronautics.

Read the current issue of Prism magazine

 

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XI. COMING ATTRACTIONS

Coming up in the November 2012 edition of Prism magazine:

COVER STORY: Despite periodic U.S.-China tensions, collaborations among university researchers from the two countries are thriving – with government support.

ALSO:

FEATURE 1: Emerging technologies with the power to harm as well as help – nanotechnology, robotics, bioengineering – pose new ethics challenges for engineers. Are educators keeping up?

FEATURE 2: Optics and photonics, the science and manipulation of light, an area of discovery that has since ancient times fascinated some the world’s greatest minds, is now central to America’s future economic growth and security.

Read the current issue of Prism magazine

 

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XII. SOUND OFF!

Do you have a comment or suggestion for Connections?

Please let us know. Email us at: connections@asee.org. Thanks.

 

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