WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES IN THE ENGINEERING ACADEMIC WORLD?
"Well, certainly the biggest change has been with the advent of computers. Computers now allow us to look at problems from a totally different point of few, because we can do large scale simulation, we can search the internet, we have instant access to information, and we can communicate in so many more ways than we could before, not just written but now video and other ways. I think that’s the biggest change. The other changes include the access to technology -- the price of the technology has reduced to the point where we can utilize it in the classrooms in a way we couldn’t before. The capabilities of the technology have improved, so for example, if you’re talking about biosensors, environmental sensors, or navigation sensors, I mean just think about the impact of the global positioning system, GPS, on navigation. Now I can have a GPS in my watch. I think those are the big things. The advent of the computer and the miniaturization of the computer and other technology, along with the reduction in price making them more affordable, has really changed the education picture in engineering."
HOW ARE PERSONAL DEVICES LEADING ENGINEERS TOWARDS WORKING IN INTERPROFESSIONAL TEAMS?
"I see that devices are becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives, not just as a phone but really as a way to interact with the world. For example, with some of the FaceTime or skype you do from the phone, you can actually have conversations with people around the world now and it’s free, so that makes it accessible to more people. Let’s say I’m interested in addressing issues around homelessness and want to develop an app for that. So, you can bring a team together of engineers, but then you need to bring in social workers and creative types to look at what does the app look like, how does it feel, how is it used, in addition to the coding and the technical parts of it. So, I think more and more it becomes essential for us as engineers to work across boundaries where we wouldn’t have typically worked in the past. In order to solve the problems that we need to solve, we need to work across boundaries -- and the phone provides that capability. We can work across even international barriers now, so it’s not just engineers working with artists, but it could be engineering students working with professionals in the workforce or the government or another country where students are solving a similar problem. So I think it just widens the area of possibilities."
YOU SEE ENGINEERING EVERYWHERE, HOW IS THAT AFFECTED BY OTHER FIELDS?
"If you look at an automobile, for example, you can see engineering’s impact all over the automobile but you can also see artists who created the original concepts, interior designers, folks who are interested in ergonomics, physicists and scientists who are looking at various aspects of the airflow over the car. So even if you take any engineering element in the built environment that we live in, you’ll see that it took much more than just engineers.
The beauty of where we are today is that engineering silos are being taken down, and rightfully so. Engineers want to solve problems, and that means we need to understand all parameters of a problem, which includes the human aspects, the environmental aspects, the technology aspects, the business aspects.
The other thing to think about is engineers and students who study engineering will most likely not be engineers their entire career. They’ll start off engineering, they’ll go into leadership, they’ll go into management. They might start to run a business, or they might change fields -- but what they bring with them is that problem-solving capability, they bring that with them throughout their lifetime. So, when I think about engineering being everywhere I think that the engineered world is everywhere, and it’s not just engineers who make that world."