GUIDELINES FOR DEFINITION OF NECESSARY

BASIC KNOWLEDGE IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION

 

 Russel C. Jones, Ph.D., P.E.

World Expertise LLC

Falls Church , VA , USA

   

Introduction  

The following guidelines are adaptations of the curricular criteria developed over several decades by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology of the United States of America . They are based upon the ABET criteria used prior to the year 2000, when a major reorientation was made to outcomes assessment rather than detailed specification of curricular content. It is felt that the former detailed specification of curricular content will be a more useful approach in countries which are newly instituting standards for engineering education which is globally relevant.

 Curricular Objective

Engineering is that profession in which knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind. A significant measure of an engineering education is the degree to which it has prepared the graduate to pursue a productive engineering career that is characterized by continued professional growth. These guidelines relate to the extent to which a program develops the ability to apply pertinent knowledge to the practice of engineering in an effective and professional manner.

Included are the development of: (1) a capability to delineate and solve in a practical way the problems of society that are susceptible to engineering treatment, (2) a sensitivity to the socially-related technical problems which confront the profession, (3) an understanding of the ethical characteristics of the engineering profession and practice, (4) an understanding of the engineerís responsibility to protect both occupational and public health and safety, and (5) an ability to maintain professional competence through life-long learning. These objectives are normally met by a curriculum in which there is a progression in the course work and in which fundamental scientific and other training of the earlier years is applied in later engineering courses.

Institutions are expected to develop and articulate clearly program goals that are in keeping with the overall institutional goals, the student body served, and any other constraints that affect the program. In addition, they are expected to demonstrate success in meeting these goals.

 Curricular Content

In the statements that follow, one-half year of study can, at the option of the institution, be considered to be equivalent to 16 semester credit hours (24 quarter hours).

[*For a program of 128 semester hours (192 quarter hours), one-half year of study equals exactly 16 semester hours (24 quarter hours). For a program requiring more than 128 semester hours or 192 quarter hours, 16 semester hours or 24 quarter hours may be considered to constitute one-half year of study in any of the curricular components specified by these criteria. For a program requiring fewer total credit hours, one-half year of study is considered to be one-eighth of the total program. Programs using measurements other than semester or quarter credit hours will be evaluated on a reasonably comparable basis to the above.]  

For those institutions which elect to prepare graduates for entry into the profession at the basic level, the curricular content of the program should include the equivalent of at least three years of study in the areas of mathematics, basic sciences, humanities and social sciences, and engineering topics. The course work should include at least:

        one year of an appropriate combination of mathematics and basic sciences,

        one-half year of humanities and social sciences, and

        one and one-half years of engineering topics.

The overall curriculum should provide an integrated educational experience directed toward the development of the ability to apply pertinent knowledge to the identification and solution of practical problems in the designated area of engineering specialization. The curriculum should be designed to provide, and student transcripts should reflect, a sequential development leading to advanced work and should include both analytical and experimental studies. The objective of integration may be met by courses specifically designed for that purpose, but it is recognized that a variety of other methods may be effective.

Following are guidelines for required coursework in each of the major curricular areas listed above:

Mathematics and Basic Sciences

Studies in mathematics should be beyond trigonometry and should emphasize mathematical concepts and principles rather than computation. These studies should include differential and integral calculus and differential equations. Additional work is encouraged in one or more of the subjects of probability and statistics, linear algebra, numerical analysis, and advanced calculus.

The objective of the studies in basic sciences is to acquire fundamental knowledge about nature and its phenomena, including quantitative expression. These studies should include both general chemistry and calculus-based general physics at appropriate levels, with at least a two-semester (or equivalent) sequence of study in either area. Also, additional work in life sciences, earth sciences, and or advanced chemistry or physics may be utilized to satisfy the basic sciences requirement, as appropriate for various engineering disciplines.

Course work devoted to developing skills in the use of computers or computer programming may not be used to satisfy the mathematics/basic sciences requirement.

Humanities and Social Sciences 

Studies in the humanities and social sciences serve not only to meet the objectives of a broad education but also to meet the objectives of the engineering profession. Therefore, studies in the humanities and social sciences should be planned to reflect a rationale or fulfill an objective appropriate to the engineering profession and the institutionís educational objectives. In the interests of making engineers fully aware of their social responsibilities and better able to consider related factors in the decision-making process, institutions should require course work in the humanities and social sciences as an integral part of the engineering program. This philosophy cannot be overemphasized. To satisfy this requirement, the courses selected should provide both breadth and depth and not be limited to a selection of unrelated introductory courses.

Such course work should meet the generally accepted definitions that humanities are the branches of knowledge concerned with man and his culture, while social sciences are the studies of individual relationships in and to society. Examples of traditional subjects in these areas are philosophy, religions, history, literature, fine arts, sociology, psychology, political science, anthropology, economics, and foreign languages other than English or a studentís native language. Nontraditional subjects are exemplified by courses such as technology and human affairs, history of technology, and professional ethics and social responsibility. Courses that instill cultural values are acceptable, while routine exercises of personal craft are not. Consequently, courses that involve performance should be accompanied by theory or history of the subject.

  Subjects such as accounting, industrial management, finance, personnel administration, engineering economy, and military training may be appropriately included either as required or elective courses in engineering curricula to satisfy desired program objectives of the institution. However, such courses usually do not fulfill the objectives desired of the humanities and social sciences content.

Engineering Topics 

Engineering topics include subjects in the engineering sciences and engineering design.

 The engineering sciences have their roots in mathematics and basic sciences but carry knowledge further toward creative application. These studies provide a bridge between mathematics and basic sciences on the one hand and engineering practice on the other. Such subjects include mechanics, thermodynamics, electrical and electronic circuits, materials science, transport phenomena, and computer science (other than computer programming skills), along with other subjects depending upon the discipline. While it is recognized that some subject areas may be taught from the standpoint of either the basic sciences or engineering sciences, the ultimate determination of the engineering science content is based upon the extent to which there is extension of knowledge toward creative application. In order to promote breadth, the curriculum must include at least one engineering course outside the major disciplinary area.

  Engineering design is the process of devising a system, component, or process to meet desired needs. It is a decision-making process (often iterative), in which the basic sciences and mathematics and engineering sciences are applied to convert resources optimally to meet a stated objective. Among the fundamental elements of the design process are the establishment of objectives and criteria, synthesis, analysis, construction, testing, and evaluation. The engineering design component of a curriculum should include most of the following features: development of student creativity, use of open-ended problems, development and use of modern design theory and methodology, formulation of design problem statements and specifications, consideration of alternative solutions, feasibility considerations, production processes, concurrent engineering design, and detailed system descriptions. Further, it is essential to include a variety of realistic constraints, such as economic factors, safety, reliability, aesthetics, ethics, and social impact.

  Each educational program should include a meaningful, major engineering design experience that builds upon the fundamental concepts of mathematics, basic sciences, the humanities and social sciences, engineering topics, and communication skills. The scope of the design experience within a program should match the requirements of practice within that discipline. The major design experience should be taught in section sizes that are small enough to allow interaction between teacher and student. This does not imply that all design work must be done in isolation by individual students; team efforts are encouraged where appropriate. Design cannot be taught in one course; it is an experience that must grow with the studentís development. A meaningful, major design experience means that, at some point when the studentís academic development is nearly complete, there should be a design experience that both focuses the studentís attention on professional practice and is drawn from past course work. Inevitably, this means a course, or a project, or a thesis that focuses upon design. "Meaningful" implies that the design experience is significant within the studentís major and that it draws upon previous course work, but not necessarily upon every course taken by the student. Course work devoted to developing drafting skills may not be used to satisfy the engineering design requirement.

  Other courses, which are not predominantly mathematics, basic sciences, the humanities and social sciences, or engineering topics, may be considered by the institution as essential to some engineering programs. Portions of such courses may include subject matter that can be properly classified in one of the essential curricular areas, but this must be demonstrated in each case.

  Appropriate laboratory experience which serves to combine elements of theory and practice should be an integral component of every engineering program. Every student in the program should develop a competence to conduct experimental work such as that expected of engineers in the discipline represented by the program. It is also necessary that each student have "hands-on" laboratory experience, particularly at the upper levels of the program. Instruction in safety procedures should be an integral component of studentsí laboratory experiences. Some course work in the basic sciences should be included or be complemented with laboratory work.

  Appropriate computer-based experience should be included in the program of each student. Students should demonstrate knowledge of the application and use of digital computation techniques for specific engineering problems. The program should include, for example, the use of computers for technical calculations, problem solving, data acquisition and processing, process control, computer-assisted design, computer graphics, and other functions and applications appropriate to the engineering discipline. Access to computational facilities should be sufficient to permit students and faculty to integrate computer work into course work whenever appropriate throughout the academic program.

  Students should demonstrate knowledge of the application of probability and statistics to engineering problems.

  Competence in written communication is essential for the engineering graduate. Although specific course work requirements serve as a foundation for such competence, the development and enhancement of writing skills should be demonstrated through student work in engineering work and other courses. Oral communication skills should also be demonstrated within the curriculum by each engineering student.

  An understanding of the ethical, social, economic, and safety considerations in engineering practice is essential for a successful engineering career. Course work may be provided for this purpose, but as a minimum it should be the responsibility of the engineering faculty to infuse professional concepts into all engineering course work.

 Outcomes Guidelines

 In the year 2000, ABET changed its criteria to an outcomes assessment basis. The following list of outcomes expected from engineering education programs is instructive as a check on the detailed specification approach outlined above.

 Engineering programs must demonstrate that their graduates have:

(a) an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering

(b) an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

(c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs

(d) an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams

(e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

(g) an ability to communicate effectively

(h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context

(i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning

(j) a knowledge of contemporary issues

(k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.

 

NOTES

 This paper was prepared for discussion by the Committee on Education and Training of the World Federation of Engineering Societies. Adaptation drafted by Russel C. Jones, 1 June 2000 . Presented in Warsaw on 14 September 2000

 ABET concurs with development of a WFEO/CET publication based on its previous criteria for accrediting engineering programs in the United States; with the understanding that the distribution of such publication will be accompanied with commentary that clearly states that these criteria are not currently being used by ABET and their use should be for instructional purposes only. For the current ABET criteria, see http://www.abet.org