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Top 3 Things I Learned at ASEE 2017


It has taken me a longer than I would have liked to get my feet back onto solid ground after the ASEE 2017 event in Columbus Ohio. We had Canada Day (Happy 150th Birthday Canada!) and the 4th of July (Happy 241st Birthday America!) – and there were a few other travels in between. Finally however, I found some time in front of my computer to think through some of my major takeaways from the show and share them with all of you.


For those of you that are not familiar with this conference - a quick primer; The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) is a not-for-profit organization that has since 1893 focused on furthering education in engineering and engineering technology. The annual conference brings thousands of educators together and this year was no different.


Here are three of my thoughts from the big event.



First … Forget about Tim Duncan, Dr. Harry Powell is ‘The Big FUN-damental’


For non-basketball fans, you can learn more about future hall-of-famer Tim Duncan here.


Dr. Harry Powell from the University of Virginia (UVA) has been changing how to teach ECE topics since his career began. Throughout his time teaching, his fundamental goal has been to drive student retention and understanding. Recently he enacted changes to his ECE curriculum and Dr. Powell has seen those efforts deliver transformative change through a series of “ECE Fundamental” courses that have taken advantage of the studio learning trend to deliver hands-on, project-focused student engagement. This year Dr. Powell was kind enough to join the NI team at ASEE and he was truly one of the stars of the show. Educators were hugely excited to come see the NI team, and hear the story of how UVA has turned around their attrition problem (they now have negative attrition and have more students coming into ECE than leaving!) and increase their national departmental rankings by 16 spots! Dr. Powell used NI technology extensively throughout his revamp of the ECE Fundamentals course with NI Multisim, NI Ultiboard and VirtualBench central to his changes.


You can see a video on UVAs success and download Dr. Powell's proven courseware at:


Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 9.54.28 PM.pngShameless Plug 1: I found Dr. Powell before the conference started and got to give him a hand.


Second … The Internet of Things is a … umm … Big Thing.


Being on a conference exhibition floor is always an energizing experience. You can find yourself running from demonstration to demonstration as educators ask that “one question” that is top of mind. During this ASEE it was incredible how many of those critical questions were about IoT. The IoT is a huge opportunity for learning, teaching, researching and innovating and that fact was not questioned once by any educator. However a common theme was that there is still not a recommended "way to teach IoT”


This makes complete sense. There is not an “IoT course” yet being taught at any school that maps this new methodology to a particular curriculum. So, what does it means to bring IoT into the classroom?


I have been speaking to educators for the past 3 years on this very topic, and one realization has been that the opportunity to bring IoT to the classroom is to ‘augment traditional topics’ with new projects. For example, educators can take a core course like sensors/measurements – and then leverage the infrastructure of the IoT to take, record and analyze measurements at the edge, and then take advantage of burgeoning cloud-based tools to make predictions. You can teach the fundamentals of any course, and add projects that augment the theory with a practical new way to drive engagement and excitement.


Recently I wandered onto a stage (accidentally) and I was allowed to speak for a few minutes. The effort was luckily captured on video and it has me introducing what would later become one of the most exciting demonstrations at ASEE. The solution that includes NI LabVIEW and products from partners PTC and Quanser will be the building blocks of some truly engaging IoT experiments in the near future. You can catch the IoT demonstration that many educators saw at ASEE at the end of this short clip.




Finally … The Next Big Thing in Engineering Education Is … ?


Whomever I spoke to you at ASEE – I got a truly interesting answers to the question  “what is the next big thing in engineering education”. Some of those were captured by ASEE during the show in the following video:



The responses in the above video aligned extraordinarily well with what we have been hearing throughout the past few years. Trends like innovation (as mentioned by Shabnam Etemadi Brady from Tennessee State University), fun (by Decker Hains from Western Michigan University), multidisciplinary (as mentioned by Raghu Echempatl from Kettering University) and societal impact (Leslia L Crumpton-Young from Tennessee State University) are all important things that I believe will lead to a seismic shift in the way engineering education is to be taught.


In addition to the trends we see in our various academic institutions, we must also consider what is happening to students when they graduate. These future engineers will work on complex systems such as autonomous car, space travel, clean energy and other ambitious engineering solutions that will change our world. In order to prepare these students for the challenges that await them we need to make their education innovative, fun and impactful, but we also need to ensure that they learn about more than the core fundamentals, but also engineering systems. It is by transcending the foundational topics to the multidisciplinary convergence of multiple domains that will meet the needs of students, boundary-pushing researchers and innovative companies. We at NI, along with many educators around the world, call this focus engineering system design.


We recently asked educators from The University of Manchester, Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Waterloo some similar questions as they spoke to how they have been teaching in this new era that requires bringing engineering system design to the classroom. We captured their thoughts in the video below:



Bonus Insight … The Terminator Rules Columbus, Ohio!


Since you’ve been so great to read through this – I also wanted to add one more bit of insight from the city of Columbus. Columbus Ohio is not just the 14th largest city in the US, but also the land of Ah-nuld Schwarzenegger. The favourite son of Thal, Austria is also the king of the Columbus Convention Center – as seen in the statute situated just outside, commemorating his win of a bodybuilding award, and the inception of a fitness program. It is also a bronze statement that this humble engineer needs to do more than 5 push-ups in the morning if he's to compare his physique to the former Guvernator.


IMG_6726.JPGTripadvisor only gives the statue a 3.5/5 – but the pictures you take will last a lifetime.