I am fortunate to have the privilege of contributing to the education and training of future engineers. In doing so, I bring to my classes and advising sessions a philosophy that an engineering graduate should be a changed person, interested in his or her craft, with skills to handle complexity and a sense of responsibility to contribute to the community at large.
First of all, the educational experience should be interesting to the student. I try to find examples of engineering in the students’ everyday experience to reinforce topics learned in class. By looking under the hood of their car, or just turning on a garden hose, a student can tap into relevant engineering systems. I believe that If you can’t find interest and enthusiasm in the topics you are learning, you should find another field to study – you’ll be doing this all of your life, and you should earn your living doing something you truly enjoy.
Secondly, the engineering educational experience should change the student. I have had many students that are brighter than I am, and yet I still have to find ways to challenge them, stretch them, and make them more versatile through the learning process. This change should be progressive, beginning in the freshman year, and clearly observable as the student approaches graduation. I see the student not as a cup to be filled with knowledge, but rather as an engine to be tuned. An engineering student must develop skills in organization and logical thinking so as to handle the complex systems necessary to a heavily populated world. Today an engineering student may solve problems involving complex calculus and physics, under deadlines with real consequences to their grade. Tomorrow, the same student will solve problems not involving calculus, but with a similar diligence and thought process, to produce and manage systems under deadlines with real consequences to the safety and well-being of many people.
This brings up the final element in my philosophy of education – that the student, the ‘tuned engine’, will purposefully harness himself/herself to the community at large. It is nice to earn a good living, but somewhat more satisfying to see your work make a real difference in the world.