B: Case Studies in Institutional Transformations in Engineering and Technology Education


TITLE: Our Big Move in 1,000 Small Steps: A Lesson in Collaboration

PRESENTERS: Robert Herrick, Purdue University and Fatma Mili, Purdue University

The Purdue Polytechnic Institute is a collective effort led by the College of Technology with strategic partners in the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Education. This project was approved by the Purdue president  in 2013 with a goal to start with a pioneering class in 2014.

The Purdue Polytechnic aims to foster a learning environment that is engaging, empowering and relevant to the students’ passions. Learning happens in an integrated way with no separation between the disciplines. In the Purdue Polytechnic, faculty are no longer sages on the stage but guides on the side, helping the students build individualized purposeful paths. In many ways, this is a complete departure from the way we are traditionally organized and the way we operate.

The long-term plan is to create a multi-disciplinary holistic degree in which all disciplines come together and collaborate to create this environment for the students. In the meantime, we have designed a first year that is consistent with the disciplinary knowledge that current majors require and consistent with the Purdue Polytechnic values. We started with a constraints-free environment letting the pioneering faculty design the ideal setting. Then, we worked with all stakeholders to align with current existing requirements and ensure that the students can enroll in their traditional degrees while learning in a polytechnic environment and culture. In this presentation, we will share our strategic approach in partnering with university constituents as well as the mechanics and the lessons learned in collaborating with all departments and administrative constituencies.


TITLE: T-Shaped Support for T-Shaped Graduates

PRESENTERS: Gary Bertoline, Purdue University and Fatma Mili, Purdue University

The Purdue Polytechnic Institute is an educational research and development initiative led by the College of Technology at Purdue and funded as one of the Purdue Moves supported by Purdue’s president. Purdue Polytechnic is a response to changing needs of three key constituencies: we entered a thinking economy, different from the knowledge economy; students grew in a connected, collaborative world and are concerned about their collective future; and, as a consequence, the mission of higher education has also changed from its narrow focus on the elite to a necessity for all.

In the past decade, many educators, professional organizations and industries have recognized the urgency to close the gap between a traditional conservative institution and a rapidly evolving world. Many initiatives aiming to address this gap have emerged, some bottom up, some top down, some in small private institutions, others in large public ones. Each one of them presents unique challenges and learned lessons.

We share our experience in beginning to transform the way we educate. We describe the journey started months ago, examine the challenges encountered and the successes we have had so far. We emphasize in particular the importance of the comprehensive broad and deep support from all segments of the university. As we question and seek to transform, we discover the mechanics that have made this institution of higher education resilient and conservative. Having allies and collaborators from the full range of stakeholders at the same time coordinated by the top leadership is paramount to truly transformative actions.


TITLE: Current Directions in Modern Undergraduate Engineering Education

PRESENTERS: Anas Chalah, Harvard - SEAS; David Hwang, Harvard - SEAS; and Fawwaz Habbal, Harvard - SEAS

Engineering skills have become essential core knowledge for every broadly educated person — and indispensable for leaders. Concurrently, an explosion of knowledge and new technologies has  transformed society and enabled new pedagogy, including online learning. With this in mind, an understanding of the role of the university and its impact on devising solutions to the world’s most challenging problems is required. Largescale challenges of unprecedented complexity demand cross-disciplinary learning and system-level solutions that are learned through different teaching tools. Technical expertise alone is not enough to be successful in analyzing and addressing large-scale social issues; deep understanding of the societal context of the problem at hand requires critical thinking skills derived from broad exposure to the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Thus, the leadership required to address today’s most intractable challenges cannot emerge without a new and innovative curriculum.

At Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), we are revamping our curriculum, reinventing engineering education and striving to create a new 21st century engineer. Our focus is on creating a curriculum that allows students to excel in engineering and applied sciences, and also have a broad knowledge of other disciplines.

Through research and scholarship, SEAS is creating collaborative bridges across Harvard and educating a generation of students with the drive to become global and innovative leaders. In this presentation, we will discuss successes and difficulties with our approaches. We will address the difficult case of balancing breadth and depth, as well as methods for providing soft-skills that ensure building on the strength of the individuals as well as team participation through exposing students to real-life environments where ethical decisions are critical, yet paradoxical. One cornerstone of our education is design thinking courses as well as a capstone design activity. These will be points for discussions as well.

Changes that have taken place over the past two years have been under evaluation and assessment. Our presentation will provide insights about the role of active learning, human support (preceptors and advisors), peer-to-peer education, online learning and international research experiences. We believe that all of these are critical elements in creating a required ecosystem for innovation and problem solving.


TITLE: A Transformative Initiative: How iFoundry’s “Heroic Systems” Course Reimagines STEM Education for the 21st Century

PRESENTERS: Diana E. Sheets, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The College of Engineering at the University of Illinois has the same challenge facing many educational institutions in the STEM disciplines. Our students are superbly trained by a top-tier school. Our engineers work at prestigious corporations, government agencies and academic institutions. They lead fulfilling careers. Many are great entrepreneurs who transform the socio-techno landscape.

Our biggest challenge is not technical but imaginative: How do we empower engineers to achieve not only outstanding professional accomplishments but also to become the global leaders of tomorrow? iFoundry believes it’s not enough for our graduates to be the recognized experts in their fields. They must be movers and shakers in the corridors of power. That entails exposing students to big ideas and encouraging them to transgress the academic boundaries in pursuit of transformative solutions. We want to give them the confidence and vision to reinvent the world.

Our course, “Heroic Systems: Pushing the Boundaries of Greatness, Past, Present, & Future” defines heroic systems. It examines how heroic systems are conceived in buildings, infrastructures, telecommunications, water and city life, modes of transportation, sports analytics, space exploration, the electric grid and the pioneering frontiers of health and medicine. It’s about enabling students to invent the “Next New Thing” while ensuring that they shape the political and institutional responses to these new systems and technologies. The course serves as a case study of how to reimagine engineering for the 21st century.