Students in Engineering give ideas on education

Students involved in iFoundry, or Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education, presented their ideas to improve engineering education Wednesday evening at the I Hotel.

The program, which plans to admit one group of freshmen each year, admitted 73 this spring for its first class.

iFoundry was co-founded by David Goldberg, professor of industrial and enterprise systems engineering, and Andreas Cangellaris, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“The education of an engineer today is very much like the one an engineer would have gotten after WWII,” said Goldberg, co-director of the program. “A lot has happened since WWII and we wonder why education hasn’t changed more than it has.”

Raymond Price, professor of industrial and enterprise systems engineering and co-director of the program, said the program’s goals are to provide engineering students with the ability to seek out new, interesting problems and improve their communication skills.

Price said he noticed that some students he advised on their senior design projects were good at applying formulas but not at approaching problems pragmatically.

“We don’t want them to be category enhancers,” he said. “We want them to find interesting problems instead of just solving them.”

Students in the iFoundry program are grouped into four teams to look at ways of incorporating skills such as entrepreneurship, community service and attention to aesthetic design. The program also provides hands-on projects for students, such as designing a Morse code transmitter and a miniature steam-powered car.

Sean Saville, freshman in Engineering, enjoyed the hands-on activities in the program.

“It is interesting and makes me want to stay in engineering,” he said, referencing designing a miniature steam-powered car.

Michael Loui, professor in electrical and computer engineering who is involved in the iFoundry program, said they are looking at different ways to make stronger connections between engineering and humanities and social sciences.

“Engineering is a profession in which we apply math and science for the benefit of people,” he said. “We cannot be effective engineers if we don’t understand the cultures where our technologies will be used.”

Claire Slupski, freshman in Engineering, said she applied for the iFoundry program because she was interested in expanding her education beyond engineering.

“I was interested in the idea of engineers not only having a technical education, but also learning about other areas,” she said.

Slupski said she was given opportunities to network with successful engineering alumni, and her communication skills have gotten better.

“They are open to a lot of opportunities I did not get as a freshman,” said Theresa Tanbonliong, senior in Engineering who serves as a student advisor to the program.

Tanbonliong said students benefit from meeting other engineering students and faculty to build their professional and social networks.

“We want students to experience the joy of engineering in their first year,” said Price.