Thinking Like An Engineer: Equipping engineering students with the necessary skills to thrive in the 21st century
Engineers today are tasked with the responsibility of improving the living conditions worldwide through the 14 Grand Challenges identified by the National Academy of Engineers (NAE) in the United States.
By addressing these 14 Challenges, which range from making solar energy economical and providing access to clean water to reverse engineering the human brain and engineering better medicines, the world will be able to make it sustainably into the next century.
To be able to address these challenges, engineers need to equip themselves with system thinking skills and innovative and entrepreneurial mental habits besides the disciplinary engineering knowledge. Besides addressing the Grand Challenges, training skilled engineers is also pivotal in enabling Malaysia achieve developed nation status by 2020.
Taylor’s University School of Engineering Dean and author of the bestseller “Think Like An Engineer,” Professor Dr Mushtak Al-Atabi provides insight into the process of developing world class engineers who are ready to compete globally and address the Grand Challenges.
“At Taylor’s University, we believe in holistic education and we are firm believers of creating an environment in which our students can develop technically, mentally and emotionally. This is achieved through adopting a curriculum that emphasises entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, critical and systematic thinking as well as emotional intelligence.
“By adopting the CDIOTM- Conceive, Design, Implement, Operate- educational framework that centers on how we feel, think and learn, we are able to anchor our pedagogy in the latest brain research findings and business practices. Through hands-on project based learning, students are able to nurture their collaborative, critical and systematic thinking skills and are encouraged to push the limits to achieve their full potential. Every student will work in a team on a major project, each and every semester of their study starting with the first semester.
“In practice, we adopted a number of unique educational innovations to empower or students and staff. In order to provide our students with a compelling reason to do engineering, we have aligned our research and curriculum towards addressing the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering. We are currently the only school, outside the US, that has a Grand Challenges Scholar Programme approved by the NAE. Students completing this programme will receive a certificate from the NAE, in addition to their academic certificates.
“We are also one of the few engineering schools in the world where Entrepreneurship is taught systematically, allowing our students to raise funds for their projects using Crowd Funding techniques. This gives our students a clear edge when they join the workforce as they have been able to benefit from exposure to the importance of economical and financial aspects of engineering. Not only will this prepare our graduates to be successful engineers, it will also enable them to take on career challenges beyond engineering, should they choose to do so.
“Another unique feature of our programmes is that students attend an experiential course to build their Emotional Intelligence. In this course, engineering students cultivate their self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management. Growing number of employers is reporting that Emotional Intelligence is a necessary skill for graduates to have,” shared Professor Dr Mushtak.
Professor Dr Mushtak, through the book “Think Like an Engineer”, provides an insight into the educational philosophy of Taylor’s School of Engineering. Professor Peter Salovey, President of Yale University stated that he is struck by the similarities between the approach described in the book and the outcomes seen in Yale’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Engineering Innovation and Design, where artists and business students work alongside engineers.
Taylor’s School of Engineering currently offers four-year degree programmes in three disciplines, namely Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Chemical Engineering, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Electrical & Electronic Engineering, and Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Mechanical Engineering.
The School of Engineering also offers the Taylor's Grand Challenges Scholar Programme to high-achievers who will be exposed to a series of learning experiences that will provide the opportunity for future engineers to be able to improve the quality of life before they graduate.