Posted in education on October 9, 2014 4:19 pm EDT

Engineers On A Mission

David E. Goldberg and Mark Somerville are two men on a daring mission. Their objective is simple -- they aim at humanizing the engineering profession with "A Whole New Engineer."

A Whole New Engineer: The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education rocks the world of staid stereotypes people have toward engineers and engineering schools. Book Cover courtesy of Big Beacon.











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TAGS: book, engineer, engineering,


By Church Designer Staff

David E. Goldberg, President of Big Beacon and emeritus professor of engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Mark Somerville, professor of engineering and associate dean at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Their new book, A Whole New Engineer: The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education rocks the world of staid stereotypes people have toward engineers and engineering schools.

In place of the Dilbert-like, technically narrow, socially inept nerd educated in a process that is a cross between a math-science death march and a fraternity hazing, Goldberg & Somerville imagine a whole new engineer, a whole new engineering education, and a practical process to achieve them both. Their new vision of engineering is one where students and professionals are encouraged to follow their passions, work on real projects in teams, focus on solving the compelling needs of people and society (not just technical problems), develop an entrepreneurial mindset to take risks and get things done, and work harder and have more fun than they ever thought possible—awakening their sense of purpose and intrinsic motivation to learn.

"The needs of society have evolved. The obedient engineer of the 1950s has been replaced by a quest for the next Steve Jobs."

—David E. Goldberg. President, Big Beacon. Engineering Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Author, A Whole New Engineer.

This is not just fantasy talk about engineers having feelings. Goldberg and Somerville have made it happen. This is the story about how they placed love, empathy and caring at the very foundation of education reform at two different schools, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, an award-winning upstart college in Needham, MA, and the University of Illinois, a research powerhouse that had every reason to resist change and preserve the status quo. “Times have changed,” says Goldberg. “The needs of society have evolved. The obedient engineer of the 1950s has been replaced by a quest for the next Steve Jobs. To find her or him, joy is replacing fear, trust is replacing suspicion, and courage and initiative are replacing passive obedience to authority. And these trends require that we change both how we educate and how we engineer.”

Goldberg and Somerville have created a clear, concise, easy to understand, and ready-to-deploy roadmap to change that defines how to go from the stultifying kind of engineering education currently in place to an entirely new learning environment which is inspiring to those who become, educate, or employ engineers and those who rely on great engineering work for their survival, livelihood, and quality of life.

Their refreshing and even eye-popping recommendations for educational reform include:

1. Stop taking the crisis in engineering education for granted.

Start working diligently until engineering is attractive to our best and brightest. We live on planet with 7 billion people. Without technology, 6.9 billion of us or so would have to die or be culled. Yet, in advanced cultures the best students want to be anything but an engineer. For the planet’s survival and quality of life, creating inspirational and aspirational engineering education is a globally urgent imperative.

2. Stop basing education system on an operating system of fear.

Start building a new operating system that works through joy, connection, and openness. The main reason students go to other fields is they view engineering education as a soulless sorting process, a survival of the fittest, where they must pass a harsh fraternity hazing before they are allowed to practice the chocolate of engineering design. Given students a taste of the chocolate early makes the process a joyful one, thereby attracting and retaining students.

3. Stop boring our students into dull obedience.

Start trusting them until they have the courage to be creative & unleashed. Our education system is based on memorizing & regurgitating facts which are now widely available to anyone with a laptop. This worked in the 1950s when we wanted technical drones to do the bidding of large hierarchies. Now we want innovative and creative engineers (the next Steve Jobs), but we educate the creativity out of them by sticking to the mind-numbing old ways. Instead, we need to give them real-world challenges and trust them until they find the courage fail and then succeed. In a word, we need to unleash them.

4. Stop educating engineers as technical brains on a stick.

Start educating engineers with technical knowledge and knowhow, visualization and design capability, emotional and social intelligence, leadership presence and intuition, skill in language and story, mindfulness and reflection. The relentless, almost exclusive emphasis on “the basics” (math, science, & engineering science) misleads students into believing that these things define engineering. It also drives out a third to a half of students who were otherwise qualified to become engineers based on their high school interests and scores.  continued >>