Blog Menu

Engineering Theory Versus Practice

March 28, 2009

Filed under: education — Terry Wohlers @ 11:11

The National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Engineering have stated for more than 20 years that American engineering education is too theoretical and not practical enough, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. These warnings have been reinforced by a new report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It suggests that too much theory and not enough hands-on experience results in graduates that are unable to tackle real-world problems.

Purdue University’s College of Engineering agrees. It is altering its engineering program to address this problem. The new model, which it is sharing with others, emphasizes problem-solving and teamwork. Last fall, it took first-year students out of massive lectures halls and put them in labs that taught them how to solve problems, from concept to completion.

The biomedical engineering program at Georgia Tech is also using a problem-based approach that is serving to attract many types of students, including women. Historically, few women have enrolled in engineering programs, so the new format is helping to improve the balance.

I understand and appreciate the need for textbook learning and the many lessons and theories that it provides. When crossing a bridge or moving at a high speed in a plane or automobile, I trust the people that designed and tested them had a strong grasp of mathematics, chemistry, and physics. At the same time, I have long been a supporter of applied sciences. I believe it creates a well-rounded individual that can address a range of issues and problems and can work with others. What we really need is a balance of both and it looks like our system of higher education in the U.S. is moving in that direction.

Online Social Networks

March 15, 2009

Filed under: Internet — Terry Wohlers @ 08:56

The March 10, 2009 issue of USA Today reported that social networks and blogs have become the most popular online activity, ahead of email. More than two-thirds of those who spend time online visit social networking and blogging sites. Considering how much time people spend processing email, it’s a little hard for me to believe, but it’s probably true. I’m sure the tens of millions of Facebook and MySpace users have a lot to do with it. According to the article, Nielsen Online stated that of the nine global markets it researched, 30% of Internet users visit Facebook monthly.

Mobile access to these networking sites is also on the rise. An estimated 10.6 million people in the U.S. access the sites through handheld devices. I’m a regular “smartphone” user, but I don’t use it for Facebook or other social networking sites.

I know that networking sites are beneficial to many people, including professionals. It can be time well spent if you are searching for a new job, wanting to exchange common interests, or hoping to build your list of professional contacts. For me personally, I’m at a point where I’m looking for less to do, not more. My current 50-60 hours of work (and some play/exploration on the computer) per week is plenty for me.

So, if you invite me to LinkedIn or another social network and I don’t accept, that’s why. Don’t take it personally. Maybe I’m “old school,” but if you want to communicate, send an email or phone me. Unless the email does not make it through our spam filter, I will respond. Also, feel free to express your thoughts by selecting “Comments” below.