Published in ASEE 2006 Annual Conference Proceedings, June 18, 2006. © 2006 ASEE.
National leaders in science and technology sectors speak in unison as they call for engineers who are not only technically competent in their fields, but who possess the abilities to communicate well, to work on teams, to apply systems thinking, to operate in the global business environment, to design within a greater set of constraints (environmental, health and safety, sustainability, economic, societal, political, manufacturability, and ethical). In short, our challenge is to educate an engineering professional who is far more sophisticated than the engineer of the 20th century. Additionally, challenges brought on by the overuse of natural resources put a special responsibility on materials science and engineering (MSE) faculty, whose role it is to assist in shaping the MSE profession. How can faculty deliver relevant curricula for the MSE engineering professional in an already crowded curriculum? Certainly curricular content must be up-to-date. However, a number of the goals can be met through changing the way in which the curriculum is delivered. In particular, we have emphasized mastery at the lower levels to increase retention, and implemented a number of learning “best practices”. Our preliminary results are promising: within one year, we were able to reverse a five-year trend in declining enrollment; we have just finished our fourth consecutive year of 100% on-time completions of senior projects; students exhibit a shift in mindset towards a greater awareness of their professional responsibility to serve humanity. In this paper, we will provide a survey of the techniques that we have used along with some preliminary results from our program.
Materials Science and Engineering