December 3, 2014

The Joy of Engineering

The dearth of fresh, engaging engineers has American manufacturers sweating bullets. Two men believe it is high time for a higher ed engineering revolution.

In their book, A Whole New Engineer: The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education, David E. Goldberg and Mark Somerville say a lack of creativity, imagination, and people skills are putting today’s engineering grads at a huge disadvantage.

Elevated to rock star status at some companies (Apple, anyone?) today’s engineers are seen as mission critical to manufacturers across the spectrum.

Traditional engineering schools, however, reward students with a fixed mind-set, emphasizing logic and rote memorization, say Goldberg and Somerville.

This archaic combination – in the Age of Ubiquitous Information – is completely useless in today’s team-oriented culture of personality.

Combine a slate of fear-inspiring “weed-out” courses with the traditional dry approach, and voila … an uninspiring program is born.

Engineering, it seemed, was ripe for a revolution.

In 2008, two colleges – the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign – partnered to inspire its engineering students with positive emotions.

The authors write:
“Despite vast differences in size, age, governance, location and mission, the two very different schools found that the difference between a challenging education and an environment that only fosters positive emotion rests on five pillars: joy, trust, courage, openness and connection. To help change from an operating system of fear to one of joy and trust, [there are] five technologies of trust: wholeness, intrinsic motivation, coaching, culture and change management.

Has the new approach worked? Indeed, say Goldberg and Somerville:
“Old-style engineering education shut engineering practitioners and employers out of the education process. This revolution demands a more active engagement between practitioners and educators, both to help drive out the old style and bring in a new, welcoming yet rigorous culture in engineering education.”

If ever there were a student body that needed joy in their lives, engineering majors would be it. Here’s to the next revolution … and may it come equipped with mechanical pencils, hugs, and the next Great Idea.

Marketing the Engineering Revolution

David E. Goldberg and Mark Somerville, both with deep roots in the higher education system, wrote A Whole New Engineer to promote a holistic approach within traditional engineering programs. 

After resigning his tenure and professorship at the University of Illinois to work full time for the transformation of engineering education, Goldberg now works with individuals, organizations, and networks around the world to collaboratively disrupt the status quo.

Mark Somerville, PhD is the associate dean for Faculty Affairs and Research at Olin College and professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics.

Somerville and Goldberg have used A Whole New Engineer to promote conversation about the evolving engineer and how to change engineering education.  

Because its program is featured widely in the book, Olin College uses the book to promote itself and to promote change in engineering education.  

A campaign is underway to send the book to thought leaders, college deans, and engineering leaders around the world.

A Whole New Engineer is available on Amazon.



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