Transferable Skills Development in Engineering Students: Analysis of Service-Learning Impact
Philosophy and Engineering: Reflections on Practice, Principles and Process, , , 2013
Abstract: The practice of engineering, especially the design process, involves many aspects beyond just the technical and includes such critical components as engineering ethics, sustainability and transferable skills such as communication, leadership and mentoring. Engineering educators often struggle with how to best incorporate these nontechnical aspects within their curricula. Service learning offers an opportunity to do this. The disconnect is that students often view engineering as only the technical number crunching and these other nontechnical components as less important. We report on the assessment of student written reflections across two very different service-learning engineering design projects for the purpose of evaluating student attitudes about these service-learning experiences and to assess their awareness and appreciation of transferable-skills development. In the spirit of service-learning pedagogy, we divided the contents of the written reflections into three categories – academic enhancement, civic engagement and personal growth skills. The commonality across both courses centered on academic enhancements and the value of transferable skills (i.e., leadership, teamwork, negotiation skills, mentoring, scheduling, verbal and written communication skills). Assessments show our current service-learning pedagogy improves students’ understanding of the importance of written and oral presentation skills. However, as of yet, many students do not consider leadership, negotiation skills, design setbacks, scheduling and mentoring skills to be part of “real” engineering.
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Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.
Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.
Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.
Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.
Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).