Modern engineering education

Herbert Hoover (seated left) and Stanford Surveying Squad
Herbert Hoover and Stanford Surveying Squad
Herbert Hoover said that in his lifetime (1874-1964) engineering changed from a trade to a profession (Florman ch. 18 quotes from Hoover's memoirs, published in 1954 but here is a link to some quotes by Hoover on engineering).  Florman notes several changes, not all of them towards more professionalism: Engineering education has not changed much in form since 1900, but it has changed a lot in content.  Some key areas of tension and change are:

How has engineering education changed as the profession has changed, to prepare people for their careers?

working with a machine tool
 image credit
Continuing tension between science and hands-on practice:

In 1906 the University of Cincinnati pioneered co-op education--students did no practical work at school but learned it in their industrial work.  Initially they alternated weeks.

In 1918 the Mann report complained about overspecialization in engineering schools and called for more laboratory teaching of engineering.

In 1932 an organization was set up to set standards for engineering schools:  ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

Florman thinks engineers should study more liberal arts?  Why?bridge by Menn

A lot of what engineers do with their time requires nontechnical skills: Is something lost in focusing only on technology?

One solution would be a 5 year engineering degree or requiring a masters degree for licensing, as in almost all other professions.  But this idea has never gotten much support.

Engineers increasingly worked for big businesses

How has engineering changed as society has changed?

Sputnik 1
 Sputnik 1
Increasing government role and increasing diversity:

impact of Sputnik (in 1957 the Russians launched the first artificial satellite--Americans were very upset about the Russians being ahead):

chart of degrees in engineering to women
 How has diversity changed engineering?
How changes in technology have changed engineering and engineering education

people working in lab
 image credit
Impact of Computers:

Modeling rather than hands-on testing

Computer Aided Design (CAD): the computer can do the drafting and calculations during the design process

Computer Aided Manufacturing and Computer Numerically-Controlled Machine Tools: A computerized system automatically sets up the manufacturing system or machine tool to produce the product called for by the CAD drawings.

Expert systems to replace engineers?

Teaching with technology

What else?

Because of the expense of these systems it has become harder for engineering schools to keep up with the technology being used in industry.

How do the changes in engineering education compare with how education for other professions has changed?

Quote of the day:
Engineering is a great profession. There is the satisfaction of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realisation in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings homes to men or women. Then it elevates the standard of living and adds to the comforts of life. This is the engineer's high privilege.
Herbert Hoover, US mining engineer & politician (1874 - 1964)

This page written and copyrighted by Pamela E. Mack
last updated 9/5/2005