Interdisciplinary Engineering Colloquium
This annual colloquium, inspired by the School of Engineering Education's boundary-crossing Interdisciplinary Engineering (IDE) program, presents a topical subject and invites perspectives from engineering and a range of other fields, including the humanities, the social sciences, and education. Drawing speakers from our diverse alumni base, the event highlights the enormous potential of our school to work with industry. Our core research expertise is about engineering learning—expertise that is central to creating a more innovative technical workforce. We look forward to involving IDE alumni in this exciting work.
Supported by the PROFESSOR BRUCE JOHNSON GRADUATE EDUCATION FUND.
2014: Risky Business
Reduce, transfer or ignore – what is the best course of action when it comes to risk? This year’s Interdisciplinary Engineering Colloquium, hosted by the Purdue School of Engineering Education and titled “Risky Business: Accepting Human Failure; Preventing System Failure,” examines the issue from the perspective of the insurance industry and scientific research. Panelists were Tom Gray, Property Consulting Director, CNA, and Dr. Karen Marais, Assistant Professor, Purdue School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Gray, who graduated from Purdue with a degree in Interdisciplinary Engineering focused on Engineering Management, has nearly four decades of professional experience in the insurance industry.
“To an insurance company, risk equals probability multiplied by consequences,” he says. “You can’t protect just one and you can’t ignore the other. You have to hit both sides of the equation. If you do what you can and take steps to reduce the probability, and mitigate the consequences, you come out very well on the risk side.”
Gray has worked with high-hazard industries, such as chemical and pharmaceutical companies and grain elevators, where dust explosions and flammable liquid fires are considered very high hazard risks.
Marais has a background in aerospace engineering and researches system safety and risk analysis.
“I feel a lot of accident investigations come down to ‘be more careful.’ But that doesn’t really work, because I don’t think people set out in general to do their jobs badly,” she says. “How can we design and operate systems that work with human failings?”
Marais will present a history of our understanding of failure and what steps could be taken to improve a situation.
David Radcliffe, Kamyar Haghighi Head, School of Engineering Education, served as the moderator. You can view the video here.
2013: Indomitable Innovators: Pioneers in Engineering Education Research at Purdue
The 2013 colloquium kicked off the 10th anniversary celebration of the School of Engineering Education. We were pleased to offer a look back at the scholars and researchers from the 1950s onward who helped lay the foundation for the thriving discipline of engineering education and the School of Engineering Education at Purdue. Before and after the colloquium, you also had the first public showing of Transforming Engineering Education Through Scholarship and Research, a video celebrating the mission and impact of the School of Engineering Education in its 10th year.
The colloquium featured a panel discussion with:
- John Lindenlaub, Professor Emeritus, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Phillip Wankat, Clifton L. Lovell Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and Engineering Education
- Frank Oreovicz, Education Specialist in Communication in Chemical Engineering (Retired)
David Radcliffe, Kamyar Haghighi Head, School of Engineering Education, served as the moderator. A recorded video with William LeBold, Professor Emeritus of Engineering, Director of Educational Research and Information Systems, was included. You can view the video HERE.
2012: Where Did I Leave My Chariot? The Curious History of Parking from Ancient Rome to Tomorrow's Megacities: A Sociotechnical Exploration of a Pervasive Cultural Artifact
The 2012 colloquium featured IDE alumna Mary Smith, Senior Vice President and Director of Parking Consulting, Walker Parking Consultants, and John Collier, Director of Campus Master Planning, Purdue University, in a wide-ranging discussion that touched on parking globally and at the local level. The panelists explored trends in parking design around the world, how the automobile and accompanying need for parking has changed Purdue’s physical environment over the years, and how new transportation systems and societal expectations will shape the future.
- Presentation by Mary Smith, Senior Vice President and Director of Parking Consulting, Walker Parking Consultants: video timestamp = 0:16:10
- Presentation by John Collier, Director of Campus Master Planning, Purdue University: video timestamp = 0:41:07
- Q&A: video timestamp = 1:07:34
2011: It Takes a Team: Reflections at the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight
Titled "It Takes a Team: Reflections at the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight," the 2011 colloquium featured IDE alumnus Gary Horlacher (NASA shuttle flight director) and Purdue history professor Michael Smith on the geopolitical and societal context and technological challenges of the Space Race in the early 1960s, the human and technological systems in the space shuttle era, and the lessons to be learned for the future exploration of space. As moderator David Radcliffe, ENE's Kamyar Haghighi Head, noted, it truly took a team, exhibiting "engineering vision, political courage, and unity of national purpose" on both the American and Soviet sides, to embark on the adventure of human spaceflight.
The colloquium, inspired by ENE's boundary-crossing Interdisciplinary Engineering program, was co-hosted by Purdue's Colleges of Engineering and Liberal Arts and took place, appropriately enough, in the atrium of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, where a replica of Gus Grissom's Apollo 1 command module is suspended from the ceiling.
- 1961 video footage on Gagarin, Shepard, Grissom, Titov = 4:38
- Dr. Michael Smith (Purdue professor of history) = 9:09
- 1981-2011 shuttle-era video footage = 30:15
- Gary Horlacher (NASA flight director) = 35:05
- "Lessons Learned" + Q&A = 55:00
For more on the 1961 spaceflights of Gagarin, Shepard, Grissom, and Titov, see The Purdue Alumnus (July/Aug '11), page 34, "First Humans in Space."