A Newsletter for Alumni and Friends | February 2013
Capstone Program Recognized as One of Nation's Best
The capstone program is among 29 engineering education programs chosen for their achievements, and one of only seven capstone programs highlighted in the National Academy's report, "Infusing Real-World Experiences into Engineering Education."
Learn more about our capstone program.
Education on the Fly… Wheel
When classes started in August, Kysen Palmer figured he had two semesters left to finish his master's in mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho before heading into the workforce at a research laboratory.
But instead, he's graduating early, selling his car and furniture and heading to England to earn his doctoral degree at the University of Cambridge.
Read more about Kysen's experiences at the University of Idaho and beyond.
In the September newsletter I announced my top three priorities for leading our college forward into 2020. In the last newsletter I discussed my first priority: to increase collaborations with industry, alumni, and other friends of the college. As we begin the new year I'd like to present my second priority, "to provide an exceptional experience for our undergraduate students."
When students come to the University of Idaho they expect, and they get, so much more than a series of courses leading to a degree. They get a truly transformational experience. And when they are done in four, five, or six years our undergraduates go on to productive professional careers or graduate school.
Yet we can do better.
Only about a third of students that start pursuing a degree in engineering or computer science complete it within six years. This is the situation not just at the University of Idaho, but nearly every engineering program in the U.S. It has been this way since I was a student!
Nationally, research has shown that there are three main reasons students drop out of engineering:
(1) Students do not feel the programs are engaging or relevant. The majority of the first two years of engineering programs are spent taking isolated courses in science, math, and the humanities. In this deductive, theory-building approach, students do not see much engineering until their third year.
(2) Students think the program is too much work. Heavy course loads of tough courses are discouraging and students leave to other majors with less course work and classes that are more fun, interactive, and have less homework.
(3) Students do not feel welcome or that they fit in. Students are particularly concerned about their social situation and they want to be accepted. Without a connection or support system, they pursue other interests and drop out of engineering.
You will notice I didn't mention bad grades. We have very bright students. In fact nearly 40% of our freshman class came with a high school GPA over 3.8 and the rest were not that far behind. You do the math.
We have established a priority to increase retention from 35% to 50% by the year 2020. There are some schools in the country that are doing this. By addressing these issues we believe we can improve our undergraduate experience and increase the retention of our students. Over the next several months our college will be discussing this issue and getting input from many constituents on how to improve our programs. We want to provide students the best experience available. I'll keep you posted on our progress.
Thank you friends, alumni, and students.
Alumni Award for Excellence
Eight College of Engineering students and their mentors were recognized for their outstanding academic success at the Alumni Award for Excellence Ceremony. This award is presented to students who are "leaders in the classroom, laboratory, campus and community."
Read about our outstanding students and mentors.
Photo: Kylie Jarvis and Woody Admassu from Chemical Engineering receive awards from President Nellis and Steve Johnson, director of the Alumni Association, during the Alumni Award for Excellence Banquet.
Collaborating to Create the Impossible
This year, College of Engineering students have teamed up with the Sound of Idaho marching band to create a one-of-a-kind marching band super star.
"Done right, this really could revolutionize what marching bands are doing at all levels. That's the goal — getting on the forefront of this and doing something unique and different."
Find out more about the robotic drum set.
For more information about student activities in the college, contact Maria Pregitzer
email@example.com | (208) 885-9700
Department Spotlight: Civil Engineering
During fall semester the Civil Engineering Department dedicated four faculty meetings to topics related to Teaching and Learning. In some sense, this was an experiment, and in any case, it was a departure from our usual faculty meetings. In the past, faculty meetings had focused on policies and procedures. For these meetings we made a deliberate decision to strictly avoid announcements and business items, and focus solely on one of the key items that attracted most of us to a university career, namely teaching.
Michael Kyte spearheaded the organization of these Teaching and Learning sessions, supported by three other faculty members who have incorporated or experimented with innovative teaching and learning methods in their classrooms. An Chen described his on-going efforts to develop iPad applications that duplicate lab experiments that would otherwise require costly structural testing equipment. Michael Kyte discussed the activity-based learning that he has incorporated in his undergraduate classes over the past several years, culminating in a transportation engineering textbook that was recently published. Mike Lowry outlined his experiences teaching Bioregional Planning classes that include both engineers and planners, and how he was able to use the diversity of student backgrounds to enrich the learning for everyone. Finally Greg Donohoe, the department chair from Computer Science shared his research into Massively Open On-line Classes (MOOCs), which are making the headlines in education arena.
The format for the sessions was a fifteen to twenty-minute presentation with the balance of the hour devoted to an open discussion. The presentations were excellent, and the discussion was always lively with faculty members sharing their insight into ever-changing student backgrounds and expectations and their experience using new teaching tools to better engage and instruct.
It's hard to say exactly how this information will be implemented – it seems unlikely an entire course will be immediately revamped – but faculty members have no doubt found good ideas such as adding an activity component to a lecture, or understanding and building on the diverse backgrounds of students in a design group.
For more information about activities in the Civil Engineering Department, contact Richard Nielsen
firstname.lastname@example.org | (208) 885-8961
2013 Class of the Academy of Engineers
The Academy of Engineers was created to honor eminent engineers who are University of Idaho alumni or those engineers deeply connected to Idaho’s strong legacy of global engineering impact. The Academy recognizes individuals for their personal contributions to engineering achievement, leadership, engineering education, and service to the profession and society.
This year’s honorees are
Harry Cougher B.S. 1963, Mining Engineering – University of Idaho
Wayne DeWitt B.S.C.E 1953, Civil Engineering – University of Idaho
Paul May B.S.M.E. 1969, Mechanical Engineering – University of Idaho
Satish Pamidi M.S. 1971, Electrical Engineering – University of Idaho
Lyle Parks B.S.1963, Chemical Engineering – University of Idaho, Harvard Business School – 1983
Chuck Peterson B.S. Ag.E.1961, M.S. 1966, Agricultural Engineering – University of Idaho
Margrit Von Braun Ph.D. P.E., B.S. Engineering Science and Mechanic – Georgia Institute of Technology,
M.S. Chemical Engineering – University of Idaho, Ph.D., Civil/Environmental Engineering – Washington State University
Look for more information on this year’s honorees coming soon to the College of Engineering website.
We will have a public induction into the Academy of Engineers at a ceremony on April 11, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Ballroom of the Student Union Building on the University of Idaho campus.
Save the Date: State of the College Reception
Thursday, March 7, 2013
5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Water Center, Legacy Room
322 E. Front Street
Boise, ID 83702
Dean Larry Stauffer and
Greg Donohoe, Chair of Computer Science
Please RSVP by Wednesday, February 27, 2013, by contacting Sandra Spear at (208) 885-5201 or email email@example.com