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Fall 2010

Welcome to the Fall 2010 issue of ENEws, an e-letter for the Purdue Engineering Education community—including our alumni from Interdisciplinary Engineering and Engineering Education, the members of our advisory boards, and our school's friends and donors, as well as faculty, graduate students, and staff.

This e-letter is intended to keep you informed, once a semester, of news across the school. We encourage you to contact us with word about what kinds of news and stories you'd like to read (see contact information at the end of the newsletter). Enjoy!

—Lisa Tally, Editor

First-Year Engineering: Commuter System 2020

This semester, First-Year Engineering students in ENGR 131 (“Transforming Ideas to Innovation I”) are working with Purdue University, the Greater Lafayette community, and CityBus on a new project—Commuter System 2020—that aims to develop an energy-efficient, user-friendly, and futuristic commuting system for the area.

First-year students at work on Commuter System 2020Using the Purdue Campus Master Plan and the Purdue Parking and Traffic Committee’s transportation demand management study, along with other resources, student teams are applying their ingenuity as they go through the engineering design process to work on this very real-world problem. Problem scoping, understanding design criteria and constraints, concept generation, and concept selection lead to a detailed design, which each team presents in a written report and poster at the end of the semester.

“The project was intimidating at first,” says Mackenzie Paulson, who recalls her initial reaction to the assignment as Uh-oh! “But it was exciting that something we think up could be introduced to transportation officials. I wouldn’t think that a first-year student could have that big an effect.”

Assistant Professor Senay Purzer came up with the project and led its design. John Collier, Purdue’s director of campus planning, visited each ENGR 131 course section and encouraged students to imagine a walking campus in which people had no need to drive. With that directive, and the directive to think outside the box, students hit the futuristic theme hard.

“We talked about jetpaks and teleporters, zip lines, chair lifts, and elevated moving sidewalks,” says Andrew Strongrich, a teammate of Paulson’s. “Obviously, we had some outlandish ideas, but they trigger new ideas that you can actually use.”

Paulson and Strongrich’s team is now proposing a monorail that surrounds the academic heart of campus. Made of recycled and reused materials, and incorporating solar panels, this monorail requires no operators but would be able to communicate with emergency services. “The focus is on convenience and reliable timetables,” says Strongrich.

Anthony Ruberti’s team considered Jetsons-style suction tunnels for transporting pedestrians but eventually settled on moving walkways, which they believe can be integrated into existing campus infrastructure.

“It’s a very open-ended problem, and that’s what engineers deal with,” says Ruberti. “In this class, it’s not so much about the information that you know, or coming up with ‘the right answer,’ as about the process in which you get to an answer. We’re thrust into that in our very first year as engineering students.”

Photo: Student teams in Dr. Purzer's class provide feedback on each other's proposals.

Interdisciplinary: Textile Engineering Student Lauren Myers

She’s too young to have seen scholar Joseph Campbell interviewed for the acclaimed PBS series The Power of Myth, but senior Lauren Myers is acting on his famous maxim: “Follow your bliss.”

Lauren MyersValedictorian of her high school class in Hartwell, Georgia, she chose to forgo Georgia Tech to pursue textile engineering through Purdue’s Multidisciplinary Engineering program (a branch of Interdisciplinary Engineering, or IDE). And she’s making the most of every opportunity that’s come her way, having participated in the Engineering Honors Program, EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service), and, most recently, a summer design course in Copenhagen through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad.

"In Copenhagen, I was seeing how dyes were set into the materials and learning about the chemical reactions going on,” she says. “I thought, Wow, cool. I found the chemistry of that interesting.” 

Myers' sketchbookMyers, who loves art as well as engineering, is pursuing a degree in textile engineering as a means to design both fabrics and the machinery and processes required to mass-produce fabrics. “I’ve taken thermo, statics and dynamics, linear circuit analysis, an ‘intro to materials’ course, machine design, work analysis and design, and engineering environmental sustainability,” she says. “I’m taking a hydraulics course this fall.” Add a number of art and design courses through the College of Liberal Arts—including printmaking—and she’s equipped to make a real difference, not only by pursuing her passion artistically but by changing the textile industry itself.

“It’s the most polluting industry in the world,” she says. “The after-treatment process in the manufacturing of textiles takes gallons upon gallons of water, and chemicals are being put in the water.” She’d like to develop and implement new “green” processes that lessen that problem and that also ease the work of laborers around the world employed in the textile industry.

“You hear about sweatshops,” she says. “I don’t want to just say ‘Stop buying,’ because then people who need jobs will be out of jobs. I want to make processes more efficient, and better ergonomically, so that people can get a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”

Textile design studioMyers’ seven-week trip to Copenhagen—an “amazing” experience, she says—appealed to what she calls her “dual-minded” nature. “We had a textile engineer as one of our professors, plus two designers,” she says. “The designers helped with aesthetics, and that’s given me a better design insight. From an engineering standpoint, if I know how a designer designs things, I can take that into consideration when making my machines. And from a design standpoint, I can make these awesome designs, but if they’re not feasible from an engineering or sustainability perspective, it’s pointless.”

For Myers, blending her artistic interests with engineering through Interdisciplinary Engineering has provided a secure academic niche. “I’d go crazy if I had to do one or the other,” she says. “Through IDE, you can do anything you want.”

Photos, top to bottom: Myers in Copenhagen; her sketchbook, created during her study-abroad experience; the studio of textile designer Lisbet Friis, which Myers and her classmates toured.

PhD Program: Natalie Barrett, Difference Maker

When Purdue needed students to feature in its recent "5 Students Who Are Difference Makers" web story, it turned to first-year ENE doctoral student Natalie Barrett to help fill the bill.

Natalie BarrettHer mentoring work, both throughout her academic career and in her industry experience at Pratt & Whitney, has reached elementary students through practicing engineers.

Read the "5 Students Who..." profile here.

INSPIRE: A Successful August Summit Yields Plans for an Academic Journal and New Book

Drawing 130 participants to Seaside, Oregon, on August 11-13, the INSPIRE-hosted P-12 Engineering and Design Education Research Summit featured teachers, researchers, representatives from private foundations and governmental agencies, and U.S. Congressman David Wu. INSPIRE is ENE's Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning.

summit participants

The summit's goal: to serve as a catalyst for combining scientific argumentation and collaboration that would enhance research in P-12 engineering education. That goal met, INSPIRE is moving forward with a new academic journal, the Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (first issue due in 2011), which will publish methodologically rigorous research and, in addition, include a practitioners' report section.

summit participantsAlso in progress: the book Engineering in Pre-College Settings: Research into Practice (Sense Publishers), co-edited by ENE faculty members Johannes Strobel, Senay Purzer, and Monica Cardella. Drawing on ENE and INSPIRE faculty as well as the entire community of researchers in pre-college engineering education, the book will be the first comprehensive summary of the field, covering examples of research-based practices that aim to (1) infuse engineering into K-12 classrooms and (2) increase engineering literacy and public understanding of engineering.

Faculty: Dr. Alice Pawley Receives NSF CAREER Award

ENE's newest CAREER Award recipient, Dr. Alice Pawley is principal investigator on the study "Learning From Small Numbers: Using the Personal Narratives of Underrepresented Students to Promote Institutional Change in Engineering Education."

The study's aim: to determine why some groups are chronically underrepresented in engineering degree programs, using research tools that have as strengths learning from small numbers of participants. To address this issue, Pawley and her research team will use narratives to understand how underrepresented engineering students describe interactions with their educational institutions and which institutional factors affect persistence and success. The project will develop and then disseminate tools based on design research concepts of "personas" (short biographies of aggregated student data) and "informance" (helping designers learn through performance about the experiences of marginalized design users) to help policymakers learn how institutions can evolve to better address and support the experiences of underrepresented groups.

The broader significance and importance of this project will be to provide new insights into the perplexing and persistent problem of low representation of white women and people of color in engineering degree programs. Pawley plans to focus on both primarily white institutions and minority-serving institutions to address questions on structural differences, using a narrative approach. Should the project be successful, it will inform policy decisions within engineering schools and potentially at other higher education administrative levels as well. The project thus has potential broad impact on the knowledge base used to make decisions and practice.

This grant brings to five the number of NSF CAREER Awards received by ENE faculty.

Faculty: ENE Professors Honored as FIE New Faculty Fellow and FOEE Symposium Participants

Dr. Senay Purzer, an assistant professor of engineering education, was named a New Faculty Fellow for the 2010 Frontiers in Education (FIE) conference, held this past October.

Purzer presented the paper "Does Context Matter? Engineering Students' Approaches to Global vs. Local Problems."

Drs. Robin Adams and Sean Brophy, also assistant professors of engineering education, are among 53 of the nation's most innovative young engineering educators who have been chosen to participate in the National Academy of Engineering's second Frontiers of Engineering Education (FOEE) symposium. Early-career faculty members who are developing and implementing innovative educational approaches will gather for the event in Irvine, Calif., Dec. 13-16.

Faculty: Announcing the Dale and Suzi Gallagher Professorship in Engineering Education

Thanks to a generous gift from Dale and Suzi Gallagher, ENE now has a new endowed professorship.

The Gallaghers“The Dale and Suzi Gallagher Professorship in Engineering Education will help us attract and retain outstanding senior faculty and build on the excellent foundation that’s been established over our school’s first six years,” says David Radcliffe, the Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education and Epistemology Professor of Engineering Education. “We’re profoundly grateful to the Gallaghers [shown at right] for making this professorship possible.”

The School of Engineering Education currently has 22 faculty members, five at the rank of full professor. The search for the inaugural recipient of the Gallagher professorship, soon to commence, will bring to ENE a scholar and researcher having an international reputation and the demonstrated ability to envision and execute major research and/or academic programs. 

For the Gallaghers, both Purdue alumni, funding this professorship is a meaningful way to give back to the university. “What we have accomplished professionally and personally began with the educations we received from Purdue University,” says Dale (BS ’69, industrial engineering), who retired from PepsiCo as senior vice president of operations for Frito Lay in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Suzi (BS ’70, liberal arts) is a retired academic language therapist.

Alumni: ENE on the Road to Houston; Atlanta's Up Next

When the School of Engineering Education hosted its September alumni reception in Houston, Texas, IDE alumnus and NASA flight director Gary Horlacher (Systems Engineering,'89) not only provided a local's insight and assistance, he also offered ENE head David Radcliffe and ENE development director Becky Fry a visit to Johnson Space Center.

David Radcliffe, Ed Van Clise, Gary HorlacherHorlacher's guided tour featured stops at Mission Control and a 6.2-million-gallon swimming pool in NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab, where Purdue astronaut Drew Feustel was in the midst of training.

Drew FeustelAt the ENE reception that evening, Dr. Radcliffe spoke about the School of Engineering Education's vision for transforming engineering education nationally and preparing innovative citizen engineers and entrepreneurial graduates to meet global challenges.

Next up for Purdue alumni, including our own IDE and ENE graduates, is a reception in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 15, 2010, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Baraonda Caffe Italiano (710 Peachtree St.). We'd love to see you there! It's your opportunity to find out just how the School of Engineering Education is reimagining education.

Future receptions are in the works for alumni in the Cincinnati and Chicago areas.

Photos, from top: Dr. Radcliffe with flight director Ed Van Clise and IDE grad Gary Horlacher; Purdue astronaut Drew Feustel in NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

ENEws is produced by the School of Engineering Education for the Purdue Engineering Education community. To view the e-letter in its entirety, click here.

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School of Engineering Education
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(765) 494-9713

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Lisa Tally
Director of Communications
(765) 494-9391

Purdue’s School of Engineering Education includes the First-Year Engineering Program; Interdisciplinary Engineering; the world’s first PhD program in engineering education; and INSPIRE, the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning.