Defining Engineering Thought

Domenico Grasso, Kara M. Callahan, and Sandra Doucett
Picker Engineering Program, Smith College
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063, USA
E-mail: dgrasso@smith.edu

Abstract:
There is a national crisis in engineering and a compelling need to reconsider and rejuvenate engineering education. Shortcomings in engineering education have been identified by the National Academy of Engineering, the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation, among others, and are marked by an extremely narrow approach to education, inadequate preparation of engineers to function in multidisciplinary contexts, and practices that are exclu- sionary to women and under-represented minorities. These symptoms of a less than optimal education system underscore the pressing need for the realignment of engineering education. The Picker Engineering Program at Smith College is at the forefront of change in engineering education, as the first institution to establish an engineering program at a women’s college, the first institution to establish a faculty position with a dual appointment in engineering and education and the first institution with an engineering faculty that is more than 50% women. The Picker Engineering Program promotes engineering as a liberal art and as a profession in service to humanity. We believe that both these tenets are vital not only to the success of the program but also to the engineering profession and the comprehensive education of our youth. Smith College hopes to take this transformation of engineering education outside its walls and develop strategies and innovative pedagogy (K-16) to address the severe lack of quantitative literacy across society and to inspire a new generation of liberally educated engineers. Founded in 1999, the Picker Engineering Program has stepped to the forefront of engineering educationÐattracting national attention from the academic and professional circles, and support from a number of companies including Ford Motor Company, Bechtel, Hewlett-Packard, the GE Fund, and Boeing. The Picker Engineering Program supports research and activities that: develop an exciting, learner-centered engineering curriculum that engages and challenges students; develop an integrated curriculum that fosters a mastery of engineering fundamentals within the context of the liberal arts; encourage socially responsible and sustainability-centered thinking; develop socially and personally relevant curricula to attract and retain women and under-represented minorities; and encourage and develop the language of technology and quantitative literacy among non-engineering majors.

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