Virtually every engineer on this planet remembers taking at least one "weed out" course. You know, the one when on the first day the instructor says, "Look to your right. Look to your left. Half of you won't be here at the end of the semester."
I hope students today don't get that kind of abuse. But, unfortunately, the saying still holds true—at least in Texas where over half of freshman engineering students don't make it to graduation. But Texas is one state that gets it. Concerned about the future of high-tech industry in the state, Texas lawmakers passed legislation in 2001 to increase the quality and quantity of electrical engineering and computer science grads.
Part of the legislation provides funding for engineering schools, with the state matching up to $5 million in grant monies raised by the Texas Engineering and Technical Consortium (TETC). (See http://tetc.engr/utexas.edu/)
How successful is the program? Though it's still in the early stages, TETC estimates a 13% increase in the total number of students that will graduate with engineering degrees. That's huge.
Although some major-name companies like AMD, Texas Instruments, and Motorola have stepped up to the plate with grant monies, the down economy has left the state short of its goals this year. So Ray Almgren, vice president of product strategy at National Instruments and an advocate for engineering education, has been spending a lot of time up on Capitol Hill lately. The former electrical engineer is busy lobbying Congress to make up for the TETC shortfall by earmarking federal funds for engineering education in Texas.
Though Ray never expected to make a career in politics, he views the time he spends educating lawmakers no less important than the time he spends working with young people. For example, he heads up a National Instruments-sponsored program that involves bringing science and technology to elementary schools in the Austin area. Each year, that program reaches 1,500 kids in the state of Texas who just might become engineers in the future.
I give programs like TETC and people like Ray an A+ for their efforts to help more engineering students pass instead of fail. Who do you know that's making a difference? Drop me an email, and I'll share your input with our readers.