The best way to Boot Up a New Engineering Program



Beginning a brand new engineering program at a college isn’t any easy activity. However that’s simply what Brandeis College in Waltham, Mass., is doing. By 2026, the college will provide an undergraduate engineering diploma—however with out creating an engineering division. As an alternative, Brandeis goals to lean on its robust liberal arts custom, in hope of providing one thing completely different from the greater than 3,500 different engineering applications in the USA accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Expertise (ABET). IEEE Spectrumspoke with Seth Fraden, one of many new program’s interim cochairs, about getting a brand new engineering program up and working.

What prompted providing an engineering diploma?

Seth Fraden: We noticed that we had 90 p.c of all the weather which might be obligatory for a vibrant engineering program—the essential sciences, math, physics, pc science, life science, all put in a social context by the liberal arts. We see our new program as a method of bridging science and society by expertise, and it looks as if a pure match for us with out having to construct every little thing from scratch.

Seth Fraden

Seth Fraden is a professor of physics at Brandeis College. He’s serving as one of many two interim cochairs for the college’s new engineering diploma.

Brandeis’s engineering diploma will probably be accredited by ABET. Why is that essential?

Fraden: Being the brand new children on the block in engineering, it’s pure to need to reassure the group at massive that we’re dedicated to excellent high quality. Past that, ABET has very well-thought-out standards for what defines excellence and leaves every particular person program the liberty to outline the training goals, the instruments, the evaluation, and the right way to constantly enhance. It’s a set of very-well-founded rules that we might help, even within the absence of this certification.

What’s the first course you’re providing?

Fraden: We’re doing an introduction to design. It’s a course through which the scholars develop prosthetics for each animal and human use. It’s open to all college students at Brandeis, but it surely’s nonetheless fairly substantive: They’re working in Python, they’re working with CAD applications, and so they’re engaged on substantive initiatives utilizing open-source designs. The thought is to get college students enthusiastic about engineering, but in addition to have them study the basics of ideation—going from planning to design to fabrication, after which it will assist them resolve whether or not or not engineering is the key for them.

How do you see liberal arts akin to historical past and ethics being a part of engineering?

Fraden: Lots of our college students need to intervene on this planet and remodel it into a greater place. In the event you solely concentrate on the manufacturing of the expertise, you’re incapable of attaining that goal. You have to know the impression of that expertise on society. How is that this factor going to be produced? Who says what labor goes to enter manufacturing? What’s its life cycle? How’s it going to be disposed of? You have to have a full-throttled liberal arts training to know the environmental, ecological, economical, and historic penalties of your intervention as a technologist.

How will you develop an engineering tradition?

Fraden: We’re not going to have a division. Will probably be the one R1 [top-tier research institution] engineering main with out a division. We see that as a energy, not a weak point. We’re going to embed new engineering school all through all our sciences, as a way to have a optimistic affect on the departments and to advertise expertise growth.

That mentioned, we would like there to be a robust engineering tradition, and we would like the scholars to have a particular engineering identification, one thing {that a} scientist like myself—although I’m obsessed with engineering—doesn’t have in my bones. With a purpose to try this, our instructors will every come from an engineering background, and can work collectively to construct a tradition of engineering.

This text seems within the April 2024 print problem as “5 Questions for Seth Fraden.”

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