Op-ed: Meet the Next Generation of Engineering Education (U.S. News)


Tools and techniques for teaching engineering are adapting to new technology and independent learning.

by Tony Glockler, SolidProfessor
Originally published on U.S. News  July 16, 2015
  From creating new products to designing buildings, engineering plays a crucial role in our everyday lives. Knowledge of engineering fundamentals can provide a strong basis for almost any career path. Unfortunately, engineering education is virtually non-existent until the college level, which many educators believe is too late to begin an engineering education. Just four states – Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon – have comprehensive engineering standards in K-12 education. However, there are three solutions that are currently being implemented and tested in K-12 schools that may improve the next generation of engineering education.  1. Hands-on learning: Educators suggest including hands-on learning opportunities such as field trips and camps that focus on the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Project Lead the Way is one organization that offers K-12 students a comprehensive approach to STEM education through experiments and activities. Students have the opportunity to “apply what they know, identify problems, find unique solutions and lead their own learning,” according to Project Lead the Way. Being exposed to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at a young age and learning how it is relevant to their lives allows students to become excited about the fields. 2. Flipped classrooms: How can higher education keep pace to meet the standards of this quickly evolving field, while still keeping students engaged? One answer is the “flipped classroom” method. This model, in which students view video lectures and complete hand-on exercises and quizzes as homework, allows educators to guide assignments, projects and experiments during class time. In a traditional classroom, many instructors do not have time to answer questions during their lectures because of the extensive content they have to cover in a short amount of class time. In a flipped classroom, students have the opportunity to go over lectures as many times as they need and bring questions to class for discussion. This increases student engagement and opens the door for more opportunities for hands-on learning and active discussions in the classroom. Villanova University students work on problems in a flipped classroom model. Students watch video lectures at home and bring questions to class. In a flipped classroom model, students watch video lectures at home and bring questions to class. 3. Online resources: Technology and online resources are helping middle school and high school educators teach highly technical subjects like Computer-Aided Design (CAD). In Polk County, Florida, Sleepy Hill Middle School’s eighth grade engineering class uses SolidProfessor to provide its students with CAD curriculum that prepared them for the Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate (CSWA) and Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional (CSWP) exams.  The CSWA and CSWP certifications acknowledge proficiency in SOLIDWORKS; having the designation distinguishes the user as having a deep understanding of the CAD software. By demonstrating proficiency, the certification is attractive to potential academic programs, colleges, and job or internship opportunities. At Sleepy Hill Middle School, 29 students passed the CSWA exam and one passed the CSWP exam – a remarkable achievement for the eighth-grade class. The digital revolution in engineering education is making the field more accessible, engaging and flexible. This evolution has helped educators rethink how they deliver their content and look toward the future with a classroom model that seamlessly integrates technology and independent learning with face-to-face interaction and collaboration. Read the full article on U.S. News Tony Glockler is the co-founder of SolidProfessor, an online learning company that specializes in software applications used in engineering and design. Existing members can log in to start learning now. Don’t have an account? Create a free account today.

Tony Glockler
About the Author

SolidProfessor Co-Founder and CEO, CAD junky, sailer, surfer and former world traveler (before kids, that is).