Engineering EPortfolio: Reviewing What is Expected

Originally published on Veni Vidi Vici (portfolio site) on Jan 11, 2012


I was upset to find out how the engineering program at my school offers no flexibility in its schedule. I investigated why this was the norm across engineering programs. In my search, I found why there is no flexibility, but also a conviction to be more engaged in my education.

When I looked at the educational outcomes of my degree, there is no place that said I should gain deeper appreciation for the humanities, nor is there a clause for enjoying the classes I am going to take. There was a list learning outcomes that sound as technical as the word engineering, and they are as follows:


1. Ability to identify electrical engineering problems and apply mathematical, scientific and engineering knowledge to their solution.

2. Ability to conceive and execute experiments, and interpret results with insight appropriate to their training.

3. Ability to meet performance criteria in the design of components and engineering systems.

4. Ability to work effectively in groups representing varied engineering disciplines.

5. Understanding of their ethical responsibilities to the engineering profession and the community at large.

6. Communications skills appropriate to the profession.

7. A sufficiently broad education to understand the societal impact of engineering activity.

8. An appreciation of the importance of life-long learning.

9. Knowledge of current issues.

10. Ability to use their skills and tools as necessary in engineering practice.

link: http://xml.ee.nd.edu/purpose.html


I thought these criteria were arbitrary. However, they are similar across engineering majors, and this is because they share the same source: ABET student outcomes. The ABET is an non-profit organization that acts the agent of regulation for science and technology education. To learn more about them visit abet.org (and if you look around the site, you’ll understand why your curriculum is exactly the way it is). The students outcomes listed on their website are:


(a) an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering

(b) an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

(c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability

(d) an ability to function on multidisciplinary teams

(e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

(g) an ability to communicate effectively

(h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context

(i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning

(j) a knowledge of contemporary issues

(k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.

link: http://www.abet.org/engineering-criteria-2012-2013/ — section: Student Outcomes


My found conviction asks me to take responsibility in my education. To me, engaging in my education means to ensure that the completion of the above goals do not solely rest on the work of my instructors. The initial step in my effort to engage with my education is to review these goals and compare them to my four year curriculum (link).

Below is my review of how well my curriculum will help me meet the student outcomes outlined by the ABET.

(a) an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering

Good: plenty of mathematics (up to differential equations), plenty of science (chemistry, biochemistry, up to advanced topics in physics) and a lot of electrical engineering classes.

(b) an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data.

Good: Multiple labs (chemistry, physics, microelectronics and an additional lab class required).

(c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability

Maybe: looks like Senior Design meets the criteria mentioned above.

(d) an ability to function on multidisciplinary teams

Average: as of my second year, the only group work I’ve done is during my first year along other engineers. The EE goals specifies in groups of varied engineering, however I believe that engineers would benefit from working with students from other colleges.

(e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

Good: Introduction to engineering and other engineering classes seem to satisfy this component.

(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

Maybe: there are classes offered that address this criteria, however they are not required.

(g) an ability to communicate effectively

Average: only required to take one writing class, and I’ve not been required to write a single academic papers this year.

(h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context

Maybe: same as (f). However the knowledge taught is sufficient to make such conclusion, but I have yet to be in a class that explicitly encourages the student to make the connections.

(i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning

Below Average: the student is not stimulated to do so. The blame does not fall entirely on the instructor for this goal. The student needs to show interest for this too. Also, I have yet to hear a professor recommend possible ways to become a lifelong learner in my classes.

(j) a knowledge of contemporary issues

Good: this responsibility falls on the student. The school provides free newspapers and there are good source of information on the internet to keep up with the world.

(k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.

Good: the school career initiatives are very well equipped to provide the willing student with an opportunity to use his engineering skills in the workforce.

After looking closely at each goal, I believe that I’ve identified the areas where I need improvement. I encourage you (specially if you’re an engineer) to do the same.

What areas do you believe need improvement? How well does your curriculum help you to achieve these goals? What can you do to ensure that all these goals are met?

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