This past weekend I participated on a panel at the ECEDHA Conference going on in Austin this week. The panel I was on (that HP sponsored) was focused on the needs of industry and the intersection with education in the electrical and computer engineering fields.
In the discussions, a few expectations of industry on universities and the graduates they generate were expressed:
1) The graduates need to have a solid foundation about how to learn,
2) They need to be malleable, and able to work with others,
3) The universities need to provide a support network that enables graduates to participate in life-long learning
None of this is all that new. There was a great deal of discussion about the role of on-line education and innovative techniques to get the students involved and interacting with each other in their education, not just the professor. During out panel, I pointed out was that there is no need for the interaction with students to wait until they start their freshman year in college, which reminds me I have the FIRST robotics competition coming up in Dallas this coming weekend – that is a good example of outreach to future STEM students.
Clearly there are conflicts in the system that the universities currently live within. That conflict points to the need for innovative techniques to be used.
Although we had a fairly animated discussion, one of the highlights for me was the lunchtime presentation by Gordon Day the president of the IEEE. As part of his discussion he quoted Theodore von Kármán and the best I can do today is paraphrase:
“Science is about understanding the world as it is, engineering is about creating the world of the future…”
This phrase highlights the inter-dependence of these two disciplines and the value they bring to the world.
He went on to talk about his interactions with engineering students from across the globe and the student’s concern if they can have as much impact on mankind as their predecessors. His response was “Is there any shortage of problems?” Which points out one of the major requirements for engineers -- they must be optimistic, since they keep tackling issues that haven’t been addressed before and they believe they can make a difference. Some of the greatest potential to address issues today like electric cars, power generation, power transportation, robotics, controls… all requires the skills of EEs.