Tag Archives: engineering education

False Dichotomies of Numbers and Art

Mira Cooper

Mira Cooper,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 9 February 2017

There seems to be a very hurtful division in education. We’ve heard it in so many different forms that we don’t even notice it anymore. “Numbers” people vs. “Art” people. Left-brained vs. right-brained. Logic vs. emotion.

When I was young, I convinced myself that I would never understand artistic people, that I’d never understand those who put emotion before fact. When I was in high school, I hated my “soft” classes like English and History because I felt that engineers don’t need to know about literature or the humanities. I thought that to be successful, an engineer just needed to spend their time buried in Excel spreadsheets and complex equations (not that I’ve ever been particularly adept with either of those, but that’s a story for another day). I’d convinced myself that once I was surrounded by only engineers, no one would care about Macbeth or Boo Radley or the mad emperors of ancient Rome. As a result, I never really cultivated any hobbies or non-academic outlets to widen my worldview. Numbers were everything.

Recently, I was told by one of my bosses that I “don’t write like an engineer.” The implication being that engineers have a difficult time communicating and telling a proper narrative that makes readers want to hear what’s being said. However, I feel that that mindset refers to the stereotypical engineers of the past—the engineers that my high-school self idolized.

Today’s engineers are realizing that to truly function and make a difference in the world, we need to be well-rounded. We need to see more viewpoints than just our own. I never really thought much about how greatly the humanities affect engineering, but once I made friends with psychologists and anthropologists, and they encouraged me to start doing my own research, a whole new world opened up.

I started seeing that the average person (you know, the people whose lives we aim to improve) doesn’t want to read a report filled with data presented in Times New Roman font. If that’s the way all engineering reports are being written, we may as well give up now because no one will be reading them.

People want to read something with a hook, they respond well to stories. I found that it is in fact possible to report logistic information in a way that doesn’t put people to sleep—crazy, right? I guess that’s why I “don’t write like an engineer.”

Now, in my first sentence I brought in that this is a division in education. I haven’t talked much about it yet, but I hope that you as a reader can tell where I’m going with this. I didn’t learn any of this in class. Not in high school, not even in college. I learned this through my interactions with other people outside of the engineering world. I learned this by reading those books that I groaned about in high school.

It may seem counterintuitive at first, but engineers need that exposure to literature to learn to write like real people, not computers. We need to learn our life lessons from fictional characters and their authors. We need to learn how to tell our story, even if that story is all data.

EECS Advisory Board Retreat

Mollie Whitacre

Mollie Whitacre,
Senior, Computer Science

Athens, OH 18 November 2016

Recently, I had the honor to attend the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Advisory Board Retreat. This is where the faculty from these departments meet with a selected advisory board to go over the objectives and motives of the departments.

The day started with the chair of the department, Dr. Juedes, presenting an overview of the Russ College and how it expanded to where it is today. Throughout the day there would be different discussions with groups of students and faculty about what is going well within classes and the college overall and what improvements could be made.

My favorite part of the retreat was getting the chance to communicate feedback from my classmates to the professors. This was a chance where students could convey the development of classes and how to keep improving them for a better future. The professors cared so much about what everyone had to say, which is a big reason in why it was such a distinct experience.

Students don’t usually see what is happening behind the scenes and the decisions that are made about the program. Sometimes we think that changes can happen overnight, but in reality there are major steps that have to happen in order for that change to occur. I loved going to the retreat and having the chance to portray the feedback from my peers!

Learning from Group Assignments

Claire Hall

Claire Hall,
Senior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 14 September 2014

Everyone has had to do it…and not everyone prefers it…but group work is one of the most important things that our professors can teach us before we graduate. Right from the start of this semester, we were placed into groups in all of our senior classes. Lab groups, homework groups, and project groups are all components of our classes’ curricula.

They can range from 2 people to 10, but regardless of size, you’re forced to work with others. All of us know it’s sometimes a pain to schedule times to meet and coordinate with others who may not be your roommates or your friends. But the entire process of group work is just as important to learn as what the actual lectures teach us.

No matter what field of engineering you pursue or what you chose to do after graduating, you will need to be able to work with others to succeed in your goals. The abilities to communicate with others, articulate your own ideas, and to appreciate others ideas are all intrinsic to being successful.

Although being forced to work in groups is occasionally bothersome, all of the successes and difficulties of working in a group you will be able to use in real world applications, whether that be with a team of engineers, marketers, fellow students or colleagues. The lessons taught by our classmates in groups senior year will be just as useful as the lectures and notes from our professors.

Reflecting on Becoming an Engineer

Eric May

Eric May,
Senior, Industrial & Systems Engineering

Athens, OH 6 September 2014

Ah! At last, it’s finally here. I’m a senior, and what a trip it’s been.

As I look back on the last few years I can’t believe how much I’ve grown in every aspect of my life. If you’re an incoming freshman or thinking about coming to Ohio University and the Russ College of Engineering and Technology you’ve probably heard a lot recently about the cost of college tuition, which degrees will get you jobs, or perhaps even that college isn’t really worth it.

But most of those people miss the point of coming to study at college. It’s not just about the degree you get, but also about how you grow as a young person. College is an opportunity for you to explore your interests, or become part of a community, but live an independent life too.

Besides “getting a piece of paper”, being an engineering student teaches you a few things about yourself. You learn that there are a lot of people just as smart or smarter than you; you learn that you’re not invincible and that you will make mistakes. For me personally, the most important thing I learned was that despite how difficult engineering is, if you want badly enough to be an engineer you can do it.

This experience has helped me build a strong foundation for my future, not necessarily a job, or money, but to be a good person and one that can help leave the world a better place than I found it. I’m excited to be getting my last year of college underway, and I know that my learning experience here has given me a strong platform from which to begin my professional career.

Rethinking Hydraulics Lab

Nick Sparks

Nick Sparks,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 26 February 2014 – This semester, my hydraulics lab has changed my thoughts about labs. Earlier lab classes that I have taken follow the same format: the professor writes the pre-lab and then we follow the steps without fully needing to understand what is going on.

This semester, our professor has changed the format of the lab so that we are able to design and conduct experiments. Each lab takes two weeks. The first week we are first introduced to the equipment and are able to ask the professor questions how this equipment works and what it is used to find. Then we take a week to research and write a pre-lab, which is is traded with another student who had written a pre-lab for a different experiment. Then in week two we conduct an experiment that was written by another student.

At first I did not like this new process, but after the first two weeks and getting a better clarification from our professor, this has to be one of my favorite labs. I like how we are able to create the lab by telling someone what readings to take and what those readings mean by going through a data analysis. It feels really cool to be the person telling someone what to do during an experiment for once.

This class is helpful because it is giving me a better understand of the equipment I am using by having to figure things out on my own. It is nice to have a piece of equipment and think to yourself “If I turn this knob, what effect it will have on the system?” It is neat being able to figure that out for myself instead of having a professor tell me.

The Truth About Professors

Jessica Borer

Jessica Borer,
Senior, Electrical Engineering

Athens, OH 15 March 2012

Every time a student fills out a course evaluation for a Russ College professor, they have the chance of nominating them for the award of Outstanding Professor. The Engineering Ambassadors get the privilege of interviewing the nominees from each program. Not only did this give me a chance to meet professors from other majors but I learned quite a bit about the different roles a professor has.

Obviously professors have to make lesson plans and grade our homework and exams but they also need to do research in their specializations. Many of them are also involved with numerous other activities: they have administrative roles within the college, are advisors for university groups, and on top of all this they all have a group of students that they are advisors to personally. They’re just as busy as we are.

One of the questions in the interview process was how they balance all their different roles. The amazing thing about Ohio University is that every single professor we asked said that teaching is their number one priority and all their other responsibilities come after that. This is apparent in almost every class I’ve taken here. Every professor tries to make sure that every student knows they are more than welcome to come to their office any time and ask questions they have about the class or anything else they may be wondering about.

OU Professors try their hardest to make sure the students get everything they need to succeed not only in their class but in college. They are a big part of what makes Ohio University so great for undergraduate students.