Free ticketed event
“The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education,” as described by Goldberg and Somerville, is being realized at Olin College (U.S.A.), NMiTE (U.K.), and in lesser forms in many other places. A closer look at the description of the goals and curricula involved indicate great difficulty in using these programs to develop future civil engineers.
• The curricular emphasis on design, creativity, entrepreneurial thinking, and innovation (which sounds transferable to civil engineers) hides the fact that the fundamentals taught are those used by software, electrical, and mechanical engineers.
• The focus on innovation and entrepreneurial skills is relevant to small, start-up businesses, but can be poorly suited to fostering innovation within large civil engineering organizations.
• The emphasis on hands-on experiences in real world settings does not recognize the extra challenges of scale in providing these for civil engineering students.
• Although the programs talk of the need for developing “systems” skills in engineers, the actual teaching is in project management skills, avoiding the extra challenges civil engineers consider necessary to teach “systems” concepts to students.
• The “interdisciplinary” nature of educational projects between software or mechanical engineers and other disciplines is significantly less challenging than educational projects between civil engineers and the diverse range of other disciplines often involved in their projects (e.g., architects, sociologists, archaeologists, planners, ecologists).
It appears that the discussion on the engineering education revolution and its realization to date have neglected a thorough consideration of civil engineering education. The workshop organizer has recently published a “straw man” paper on the topic in Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems (DOI:10.1080/10286608.2017.1313246) to stimulate discussion on a civil-specific response to the need for education change, and to provide a starting point for workshop participation. Much of the same logic that is leading to change in software, electrical, and mechanical engineering education applies to civil engineering education, but the forms that it would take would need to very different consideration.
A similar workshop was held in the UK at a national gathering of civil engineering educators in November 2017, and an Australasian workshop is intended for December 2018. The workshop will be supplemented by a survey sent to ASEE Civil Engineering members. A similar survey will have been distributed to U.K. engineering educators before the ASEE workshop.
9:00-9:15 a.m. PowerPoint overview presentation.
9:15-9:30 a.m. Participants give viewpoints from their institutions with a focus on what is happening and whether that is enough or not.
9:30-10:00 a.m. Break-out session (groups of 4-5) to consider what a civil-specific revolution might look like.
10:00-10:10 a.m. Reporting back with notes taken.
10:10-10:30 a.m. Discussion on further participation:
A discussion of whether a working group should be formed to explore the matter further. If positive, there would be consideration of the scope (civil + environmental?), terms of reference, who to invite (e.g., ASCE?), and what a suitable output and end-point for the working group would be.
An intercontinental paper would be developed on this and other workshops for presentation at the 2019 ASEE Conference, and North American co-authors would be sought at the workshop. The survey effort on the three continents and its findings would be reported in a peer-reviewed journal, and again, co-authors would be sought at the workshop.
Mark Milke is a Professor in the Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, New Zealand. Since 1991 he has taught and conducted research there on solid waste management, systems, design for civil and natural resources engineers, engineering decision-making, and other topics in civil and environmental engineering. He was an Associate Editor for the international research journal Waste Management from 2003-2009, and is currently Associate Editor for Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems. He has a BSc from Harvey Mudd College, an MSc from Univ. Wisconsin—Madison, and a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University, and he is a New Zealand Chartered Professional Engineer. From 2009-2017 he has led the curriculum review process in his department, and has been a leader in curriculum and teaching innovations by developing new courses in engineering design, communication skills portfolio, and professional engineering development.