Rod Wetterskog, Assistant Dean of Corporate Relations for the Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, was one of the three featured panelists at an awards luncheon for the Texas Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE). Here are some of his comments:
Rod Wetterskog: Engineering education has changed in the past few decades. In the past, it was always Chapter 10, and the odd problems at the end of the chapter. Now it’s a whole new world as far as trying to work and understand what the customer needs, such as human-centered design. How do you work with the customer to understand the specifications, ideation, working on collaborative teams and communicating. These are skills that frequently aren’t taught at universities until the very end. Of course, UT Dallas is well-known for its UTDesign senior capstone program. Dr. Robert Hart is back there. His program and students have won first place in the country every year since 2014. And he’s also a Professional Engineer. Those are different kinds of strategies, working with the customer directly, and those workforce skills are frequently missing. So, what is our responsibility to K-12 organizations? First of all, our professional development opportunities. We get to be doing research—research, first, where we get to understand what educational pedagogies are different and how they’re evolving. How can we really inspire K-12 kids to not just learn the skills, but understand what the customer, client or person needs. And then, how do we fuse that into their coursework? Make it fun to allow them to realize that they can fail, but use that as a positive reinforcement to continue learning. If you’re not sure about helping out in the schools—just do it!