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VT Electrical and Computer Engineering NSF Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) grant


"Expand Your ECE Career" Talk

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March 25, 2021 
The "Expand Your ECE Career" talk featured VT alumni discussing how their Electrical and Computer Engineering degree contributed to their successful careers in finance, fashion, entrepreneurship, and law. 

The world is embracing a new type of engineer - a design thinker who is innovative, flexible, and collaborative.

This project aims to transform the offerings of a traditional engineering department with a new curriculum model that emphasizes design and innovation approaches, offering students a variety of pathways to a degree in a program with disciplinary depth and a range of learning experiences. This adaptive kind of engineering professional is in demand by creative industries that are committed to blending science, engineering, arts, and design to address the world's problems. The department's current curriculum is composed mostly of traditional engineering courses that are lecture and exam-heavy, with little opportunity for experiential learning or open-ended design. A combination of approaches will be developed that includes providing multiple paths through the curriculum for students, giving them the freedom to choose a variety of concentrations - from biomedical applications to digital arts - and providing outreach opportunities for K-12 students in underserved and underrepresented populations. These innovations will allow the department to attract a broader pool of students and prepare them for a wide variety of careers. These improvements not only broaden the diversity of students entering the program, they expand students' academic experiences and design and innovation skills. Applying this concept to an entire department curriculum will allow for the creation of a sustainable and scalable participatory curriculum that can be replicated by other programs. This project will also spur new connections with industry leaders, enhancing students' academic experiences while providing regional economic benefits.

The vision of this project is to transform Virginia Tech's Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from a department with narrow curricular paths that attracts and produces a limited range of traditional engineers to one that draws and retains a wider pool of students and prepares them to be holistic professionals for a broader range of careers. To implement this vision the project will create and implement a reproducible process of curriculum transformation that dramatically enhances the emphasis on design and innovation. By combining threshold concepts theory and design-based learning, a department with just two highly determined paths - electrical engineering and computer engineering - becomes one overarching program. The multiple curricular pathways will be anchored in real world problems, forging new connections to K-12 education and to 21st century industries, including start-ups, design consultancies, and non-governmental organizations. This re-design process - broadening the pool of students entering the department while increasing potential career opportunities - is learner-centered, stakeholder-informed, and features assessment and evaluation efforts that can be used to continuously improve education in support of holistic professional development, ensuring it is sustainable and replicable within the time and resource constraints faced by any major engineering department.

Our team

Luke Lester
ECE Department Head

Lisa McNair
Engineering Education

Matt Wisnioski
Science, Technology, and Society

Tom Martin

Ben Knapp

Liesl Baum
Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Steve Harrison

Annie Patrick
Science, Technology, and Society

David Reeping
Engineering Education

Desen Ozkan
Engineering Education

Chelsea Lyles

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"This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1623067. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation."