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美學者呼籲改革工程師教育

'Change' needed in engineering education

Mark LaPedus

EE Times
(12/16/2008 7:13 H EST)

SAN FRANCISCO — More calls for a change in engineering education surfaced at this week's International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) here.
James Plummer, Dean of Engineering and Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, warned that U.S. universities must change or reform engineering education to prevent further shortfalls in the discipline.

Change is also needed to become more competitive. In the United States, as well as Europe and Japan, student interest in engineering is on the decline. In contrast, the field of engineering is exploding in developing nations like China and India.

"There is a lot what's right about engineering education,'' Plummer said in a keynote address at IEDM, entitled ''Educating Engineers for the 21st Century.'' ''I would argue that we could do better.''

There is ''a real need for change'' in engineering education to survive in the ''increasingly global'' and ''flat world,'' Plummer said.

He said that today's engineering schools are packed with difficult curriculum, which, in some cases, ''filters out'' a large number of students in the field. To reverse the trend, there are two schools of thought to change engineering education at the undergraduate level.

On one end of the scale, Plummer said that engineering could follow the same model as law and medicine. Students learn any discipline (i.e. art, physics) at the undergraduate level and then move to the targeted field.

A more realistic approach is to mix current engineering curriculum with other types of classes in related and unrelated fields. He proposed the following changes in U.S. engineering schools:

Top 10 changes proposed for schools

1. Engineering schools need to develop ''T-Shaped People.'' In other words, engineers need to learn their discipline in depth. But they also need to expand and broaden their education in areas beyond math, science and related classes.
2. Engineering schools must teach students how to innovate and be creative. For example, Plummer showed how students in teams were supposed to create something from mere ''post-its.''

3. Engineering schools must teach entrepreneurship. For example, ''Introduction to High Technology Entrepreneurship'' is one class in Stanford's curriculum.


4. Engineering schools must teach students how to work well as a member of a diverse team.

5. Engineering schools must offer undergraduate research programs in a faculity lab or related settting.


6. Engineering schools must offer student competitions (i.e. Darpa Grand Challenge).

7. Engineering schools must provide global knowledge and experience. For example, Stanford offers summer internships in companies worldwide.

8. Engineering schools must teach better communication skills.

9. Engineering schools must have life-long learning programs, such as online courses and free lectures.

10. Engineering schools must teach why engineering is important.

Engineers are key to solve the next wave of problems in technology, life sciences and energy needs. ''We need to (let people know that) engineering is the occupation of choice for the best and brightest,'' Plummer said. ''Unfortunately, this is not the case today.''

在日前於美國舊金山舉行的國際電子元件會議(IEDM)上,有多位學者專家皆呼籲美國的工程教育應該有所改革。其中史丹佛大學(Stanford University)工學院院長、電子工程教授James Plummer更警告,美國各大學必須革新工程教育,以避免該學科的進一步衰退。

所謂的改革也需要包括競爭力的提升;在美國、歐洲與日本,對理工科系有興趣的學生正在逐漸減少,反之,中國與印度等新興市場的工程學領域則突飛猛進。Plummer在IEDM發表題為「21世紀的工程師教育」專題演說時表示:「很多人認為美國的工程教育沒有問題,但我認為我們可以做得更好。」


Plummer表示,在全球化浪潮日益高漲以及「世界是平的」趨勢下,工程教育若要取得生存,就必須要有所改變。他指出,目前美國的理工學院有太多困難的課程,以至於在某些時候「剔除」了該領域的一大部分學生;為了改變這樣的情況,他建議大學階段的工程教育可思考兩種改革方案。


其一,Plummer認為工程學院可以參考與法律或醫學院一樣的模式,讓學生在大學階段學習每一種課程(例如也修人文學科、也修物理學),然後再選擇專業領域。另一種更實際可行的方法,是將目前的理工課程與其他相關/非相關領域的課程全部混合在一起,具體建議包括:


1. 工程學院應培養「T型人才」,也就是說,工程師需要深入研讀相關科目,但也需要將所學課程跨越數學、科學的範圍,擴展到其他領域。


2. 工程學院應該訓練學生如何創新與培養其創造力。例如讓一群學生只利用「便利貼」,就能創造出某種東西。


3. 工程學院應該訓練「企業家」。例如史丹佛大學就有「介紹高科技產業企業家」這門課。


4. 工程學院應教導學生如何能在不同的團隊中,仍能順利工作。


5. 工程學院應利用學校的實驗室或相關的設施推動大學階段的研究計畫。


6. 工程學院應舉辦學生競賽。


7. 工程學院應提供學生全球化的知識與經驗,例如史丹佛大學在暑假期間提供世界各國企業的實習機會。


8. 工程學院應該教導學生更好的溝通技巧。


9. 工程學院應該提供終身學習計畫,例如一些網路課程或是免費的演講會等。


10. 工程學院應教導學生工程學的重要性。


工程學科是解答科技、生命科學與能源需求疑難的關鍵;「我們需要讓人們知道,工程師這個職業,是最好也是前景最光明的一種選擇。」Plummer表示:「可惜現在的情況並不是這樣。」
 

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