The accelerating pressure on natural resources that has been brought to light in the debate over global warming, the increasing permeation of technology into society, and the rise of ‘technosciences’ that call for new forms of cross-cutting competence and design capabilities raise serious challenges for engineers.
This research alliance will examine how engineering educational institutions are responding to these challenges and propose ways in which they might respond more effectively. The results will take the form of suggestions for curriculum design, including proposals for new courses, teaching methods, teacher training and other educational reform activities, as well as new analytical and evaluative instruments, or methods, for understanding how curriculum design affects learning outcomes and competence development.
Three fundamental challenges facing engineering education are taken as the starting point for the strategic alliance:
- one related to the widely recognized need for societal responses to resource depletion and environmental deterioration challenging technologies and engineering,
- another related to the increasing complexity of technology and its permeation of all aspects of contemporary life giving rise to a need for design skills for socio-technical integration, and
- a third coming from advances in technology and science themselves in which the traditional boundary between scientific and technical knowledge is increasingly blurred, creating new needs for engineers both in terms of design capabilities and modelling, or simulation skills.
The responses to these challenges have been contradictory. On the one hand, engineers are expected to add commercial and entrepreneurial skills to their scientific and technological competence, and, on the other hand, they are expected to contribute to the development of more sustainable and socially useful technologies, which calls for an environmental consciousness and sense of social responsibility as part of their engineering identity.