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Future of Engineering Practice, Research and Education in America


Quiz Questions

1.In summary, we believe that to meet the needs of the nation, the engineering profession must achieve the status and influence of other learned professions such as law and medicine.
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2. The purpose of this study is to pull together the principal findings and recommendations of the various reports concerning the profession of engineering, the technology and innovation needs of the nation, and the role played by human and intellectual capital, into an analysis of the changing nature of engineering practice, research, and education.
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3.The implications of a technology-driven global economy for engineering practice are non-sense. The globalization of markets does not require engineers to be capable of working in and with different cultures and knowledgeable about global markets.
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4.The rapid evolution of high-quality engineering services in developing nations with significantly lower labor costs, such as India, China, and Eastern Europe, raises serious questions about the global viability of the United States engineer, who must now produce several times the value-added to justify wage differentials. Both new technologies (e.g., info-bio-nano) and the complex mega systems problems arising in contemporary society require highly interdisciplinary engineering teams characterized by broad intellectual span rather than focused practice within the traditional disciplines.
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5.Yet, despite the growing importance of engineering practice to society, the engineering profession still tends to be held in relatively low esteem compared to other learned professions such as law and medicine.
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6.It is also evidenced in the way that industry all too frequently tends to view engineers as consumable commodities, discarding them when their skills become obsolete or replaceable by cheaper engineering services from abroad. So too, the low public prestige of the engineering profession is apparent both in public perception and the declining interest of students in engineering careers relative to other professions such as business, law, and medicine.
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7.In fact the outsourcing of engineering services of increasing complexity and the off shoring of engineering jobs of increasing value raise the threat of the erosion of the engineering profession in America and with it our nation’s technological competence and capacity for technological innovation.
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8.One must bear in mind four imperatives of the global economy:

i) people everywhere are smart and capable;

ii) science and technology advance relentlessly,

iii) globalization is a dominating reality, and

iv) the Internet is a democratizing force (Vest, 2005). Worldwide communication networks have created an international market, not only for conventional products, but also for knowledge professionals, research, and educational services.
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9.As the recent report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project has concluded, "The very magnitude and speed of change resulting from a global-izing world-apart from its precise character–will be a defining feature of the world out to 2020. During this period, China’s GNP will exceed that of all other Western economic powers except for the United States, with a projected population of 1.4 billion. India and Brazil will also likely surpass most of the European nations.
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10.In his provocative book The World Is Flat, Tom Friedman warns that "Some three billion people who were excluded from the pre-Internet economy have now walked out onto a level playing field, from China, India, Russia, Eastern Europe, Latin American, and Central Asia. It is this convergence of new players, on a new playing field, developing new processes for horizontal collaboration, that I believe is the most important force shaping global economics and politics in the early 21st century" (Friedman, 2005). Or as Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, puts it: "You don’t bring three billion people into the world economy overnight without huge consequences, especially from three societies like India, China, and Russia, with rich educational heritages."
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11.Beyond a strong foundation in fundamentals such as science, mathematics, and engineering sciences, engineers require broader skills such as those suggested by Bordogna (2003):

  • Engineering science (analysis)
  • Systems integration (synthesis)
  • Problem formulation as well as problem solving
  • Engineering design
  • The ability to realize products
  • Facility with intelligent technology to enhance creative opportunity
  • Ability to manage complexity and uncertainty
  • Teamwork (sensitivity in interpersonal relationships)
  • Language and multicultural understanding
  • Ability to advocate and influence
  • Entrepreneurship and decision making
  • Knowledge integration, education, and mentoring
  • conservation laws
  • biochemistry
  • scalar wave equation
  • genetics
  • dynamical systems
  • evolution
  • cell biology
  • physical forces
  • geochemistry
  • atmospheric chemistry
  • quantum mechanics
  • discrete mathematics
  • logic and probability
  • chemical bonding
  • information theory
  • electrical circuits
  • statistical mechanics
  • thermodynamics
  • chemical equilibrium
  • condensed matter
  • systems engineering
  • complexity
  • collective properties
  • chaotic systems
  • neurobiology

Quite a contrast with today’s engineering curriculum. Quite a challenge. And clearly impossible, at least within the current undergraduate engineering degree constraints. Beyond science, mathematics, and engineering science, the undergraduate curriculum must also change substantially to provide students with the broader skills necessary to be successful in a rapidly changing global society.

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12.Clearly this will require that engineering education shift increasingly away from the lecture-laboratory approach of the sciences to more active learning experiences that engage problem-solving skills, team building, creativity, design, and innovation. Engineering faculty must create discovery-oriented learning environments that capitalize on the full power of new communication, information, and visualization technologies (NSB, 2007).
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13.America does not have to worry about global competitiveness is technological innovation. And the keys to innovation has nothing to do with new knowledge, human capital, infrastructure, and enlightened policies.
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14.William Wulf, former president of the National Academy of Engineering, conveyed the urgency of this effort in his 2003 address to the National Academy: "We have studied engineering reform to death. While there are differences among the reports, the differences are not great. Let’s get on with it! It is urgent that we do so!" He then went on to observe: "I honestly don’t know the answer, but I have a hypothesis–namely, that most do not believe change is necessary. They are following the time-tested adage–––’if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’" Well, American engineering is broken, at least when measured against the emerging technology capabilities of the rest of the world. Otherwise it would not be outsourced and off-shored. We can no longer afford simply chipping away at the edges of fundamental transformation of the engineering profession and its preparation. Radical transformation will require radical actions!
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15.Finally we must make engineering education, engineering practice, and the profession of engineering itself more attractive to young people. Today students sense both the narrowness of engineering education and the commodity nature of engineering careers. Why do they prefer professions such as business and law? Not because they find these subjects intellectually stimulating, but because they open doors to further opportunities rather than close down options as an engineering education is perceived to do.
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