So are you saying TJ, that providing the real-world design tools in the classroom to do simulation or virtual prototpying doesn't go far enough in terms of delivering that "nuts and bolts" education? Are you saying that there needs to be a hands-on physical prototyping aspect as well so students get their hands "dirty" not just with the technology tools, but with "bending real metal" etc. to learn by doing? If so, that's an interesting point given all of the focus today on virtual prototyping.
The literal nuts and bolts are being ignored. Matlab / Solidworks in the curriculum gives a more practical basis, but you're still talking about simulations. There should also be something tangible, something memorable to the class. Doing a root-cause failure analysis on the 737 skin failure earlier this year works well in the Matlab simulations (varying rivet hole size, for instance). But that should be followed by several lab demonstrations to prove the Matlab simulations actually jibe with the real world. Watching a test to failure of something they initially design will be a memory students carry for their entire life.
It seems to me that more participation from vendors like MathWorks should be a no-brainer. By providing their software and support to engineering programs and doing their part to add a practical slant to the curriculum, they get a built-in potential customer base as graduating students are already versed and hooked on their programs.
There is definitely lots of activity in terms of design tool vendors sponsoring student competitions and doing regular donations of software. Let's hope that all of the effort pays off in terms of helping to fuel this shift.
It can be easy to criticize engineering curricula for not providing a hands-on learning experience, but hands-on experience can be difficult and expensive for universities. Kudos to The MathWorks for lending a helping hand here. Engineering programs need this kind of help to provide a solid learning experience.
I can really appreciate the practical aspects of an engineering curriculum. As interesting as the theoretical foundations are, engineering requires a practical approach. To me the Scientists were usually engaged in more theory and research while the engineers were usually trying to figure out how to put some of those interesting discoveries to work.
A good hands on education that emphasizes solutions to problems is usually appreciated by engineering students.
California State University, Chico was the first school in California to offer an ABET-accredited degree program in mechatronic engineering. Now its California Mechatronics Center works with industry on machinery, robotics, and surveillance vehicles.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.