Small Engineering Schools Harvey Mudd, Olin, Rose-Hulman Offer Big Results

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The Good and the Bad Engineering Educators
bonderman   8/15/2016 10:46:26 PM
25 Years ago I was interviewing students about to graduate as engineers from a respected engineering school in California.  We used a simple test devised by our VP-Engineering who happemned to have taken his BS in Psychology but was one of the most gifted engineers I have ever met.  

The test was not hard but he insisted that any hand scribbled calculations in the margis were grounds for rejection.  So, I began giving tests to groups of candidates and was surprised to learn that some could not apply Ohm's law (even with scribbling in margins)!  

I spoke to the department chair and he asked if I would speak to the faculty on the subject.  I did and asked how these students were allowed to progress through the EE/CS program even though they could not answer a simple Ohm's law question.  I got a lot of answers and all were hopelessly selfserving.  I wrote the dean and received a reply that I took to be more of the same.  

I was a member of the school's Industrial Advisory Board and took my findings to some senior members who represented major electronic equipment manufacturers in the state.  To summarrize, their answer was to just go ahead and select the better grads and let the rejects find employment in non-engineering positions.  

The problem with this attitude should be obvious.  The school should have weeded out and supported guidance initiatives that helped those failing students find a career path that better fit their skills and interests instead of supporting the charade that they would become successful design engineers.  In effect, those professors stole three years from those students.  

Not long after this experience, our company added Harvey Mudd to our search and we were greatly impressed by the quality of their grads. My collegue said he knew he was going to find the kind of engineers we wanted when he noticed the bikes in the bike rack were unlocked.  Turned out he was right. 

The school in question has a new dean and while I am no longer involved, I underatand that improvements are slowly being made.  I certainly hope so.


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