Shift for engineering horizons

By Ciampi, M.M.; Brito, C.D.R.; Vasconcelos, R.M.; Amaral, L.A.; Barros,

44th Annual Conference of the European Society for Engineering Education - Engineering Education on Top of the World: Industry-University Cooperation, SEFI 2016

2016

Abstract

Science, Engineering and Technology cross nearly every facet of modern life and, as problem solvers, engineers are perfectly capable of managing entrepreneurial activities, mastering innovative ways of business development, when they spend time and efforts understanding and acting in the field. Engineers rely on science and methods for analysis to ensure the quality and liability of design; nevertheless a pinch of creativity is required in order to find innovative solutions for economic and entrepreneurial problems. So, at present, engineers with technical skills must also learn how to work in interdisciplinary teams, how to develop designs rapidly, how to manufacture sustainably, how to combine art and engineering and how to address global markets. Providing opportunities in the work market for future engineers has become now part of university training, as a way to assure also the future competitiveness of universities. In many places, enterprises and universities have still difficulties in working together, it is up to engineering schools and universities to have the initiative to enhance their programs, to assure the proper training for future professionals that can perform in this mutant work environment of the 21st Century. According to the report “The Engineer of 2020”, developed by the National Academy of Engineering, USA, which paints a picture of a dynamically changing and evolving world: “The successful future engineer will need strong analytical skills, practical ingenuity, creativity, good communication skills, business and management knowledge, leadership, high ethical standards, professionalism, dynamism, agility, resilience, flexibility, and the pursuit of lifelong learning”. Currently, the opportunities for professionals seem to be very narrow, once economic crisis is impacting countries and communities worldwide, as the result of a natural cyclic wave of economy, until a new economic model starts to work somehow. To provide future professionals an opportunity in the work market has now become part of university training as a way to assure the future of university. COPEC – Science and Education Research Council’s education research team has designed and implemented a program for engineering students which is called “Working with Communities Course”, providing 3rd year engineering students the chance to work as consultants for the entrepreneurial community in the city. The goal is to offer a space that has been named “Innovative Office”, to which local entrepreneurs can resort to in order to discuss and to find sustainable solutions for a specific problem or project. The choice of the name working with communities was due to the enticing appeal once as young “green generation” they want to cooperate with society segments in any way. However the true goal is to give them a chance to have a professional experience and also some time of internship although early in the program. As they work using their creativity to design and present solutions within the constraints of ethical practice grounded in science and engineering methods and standards, they can evaluate the reality of professional practice and see if engineering is really what they want to pursue as a career. They have to work using their creativity to design and present solutions within the constraints of ethical practice grounded in science and engineering methods and standards. The process involves face-to-face meetings and discussions with entrepreneurs of the city, from the presentation of the problem until the delivery of the plans. Once engineers are part of society it is important that they have a stronger interaction with the wider public. So the goal of including this course in the program is to provide students the opportunity to work closely with the real local entrepreneurship environment. Apart from this, engineers need to develop broad fundamental understanding of their professional responsibilities, as well as the need to be entrepreneurial in order to understand and contribute in the context of market and business pressures. If engineers can work with the public to explain how engineering can help address their problems, and to help them to decide which are the most effective and affordable ways to address their concerns, the community can make great progress and improvements. It will surely be a great acquisition for the city business community as well as for the students themselves, once they can get a glimpse of what it is to engineer in real world. This project has the chance developed in partnership with a City Hall as a way to improve entrepreneurship in the region, aiming at fostering employment and private initiatives to change community’s profile. It is an immersive period of internship, in real engineering work environment.

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