Engineering programs get a dose of reality

By Sarah Langmead, Assistant Editor
November 20th, 2012

As the face of the engineering field has evolved, some experts wonder if teaching methods, too, should change.

Some advocates of engineering education wonder if too great an emphasis exists on students mastering mechanics, and they believe that real-world experience—including the ability to communicate ideas and procedures clearly—should hold greater importance.

In a recent study, AMD and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) reviewed 29 programs at 28 colleges that equally emphasize real-world experience and technical skills to produce well-rounded engineering graduates.

These colleges have anticipated and appeased a growing concern about student skill among employers. A separate survey shows that 68 percent of U.S. employers are likely to hire graduates with engineering degrees but worry that they lack the necessary real-world skills to succeed in the modern workforce. As the face of the engineering field has evolved, some experts wonder if teaching methods, too, should change.

“Simply mastering technical engineering is no longer enough to successfully compete and lead in today’s marketplace,” said Mark Papermaster, AMD senior vice president and chief technology officer. “We see firsthand at AMD that our engineers must also be able to solve complex problems, communicate clearly and collaborate globally. The innovative approaches taken by these leading engineering schools will help prepare our future engineers.”

Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., is among those institutions the study praised for its efforts to provide its engineering students with invaluable real-world experience.  The school’s Engineering Clinic, established by the Department of Engineering in 1963, allows juniors and seniors to collaborate with faculty advisers and practicing engineers to confront real problems in the public and private sectors.

As they are mentored and advised by practicing engineers, students gain a new network of connections that will serve them well in their post-grad job hunts and future endeavors.

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