Celebrating 50 years of innovative engineering

Purdue’s School of Engineering Education (ENE) packed two days full of activities Sept. 20-21 to commemorate 50 years of Interdisciplinary Engineering (IDE) and Multidisciplinary Engineering (MDE).
The original Interdisciplinary Engineering (IDE) crew, including founding Head Richard Grace (front left).

The weekend included alumni-student networking, guided tours of Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, an Apollo 11 dramatic reading by theatre engineering students, a 150th Anniversary panel luncheon at the Shively Club, and an Alumni Night Out featuring dinner at Dauch Alumni Center and a viewing of the play “These Shining Lives” at Pao Hall.

Also, current and retired ENE heads, Donna Riley and David Radcliffe, respectively, paid tribute to the late Kamyar Haghighi, visionary and founding head of the School of Engineering Education, for whom their endowed headships were named.

At a time of declining enrollment due to the Vietnam War, IDE was approved at Purdue on September 1, 1969, and created a path for undergraduate students to “design their own engineering degree, similar to that of a graduate student, crossing the boundaries of engineering and other areas of study,” Riley shared during her welcome message at the luncheon.

This unique degree program, Riley added, isn’t just about practicing engineering. “Today in this room, we have almost as many attorneys who studied pre-law as an IDE student as we do engineering alumni,” she said. “We have surgeons and doctors practicing medicine who all learned the engineering design process for their education foundation before entering their professional schools.”

Further, Phil Wankat and Mary Pilotte, the previous and current directors of ENE undergraduate programs, launched and grew the accredited MDE program with new and innovative concentrations, “furthering the boundaries of engineering fields into areas like theatre engineering, humanitarian engineering, lighting engineering, and visual design engineering,” Riley said. The popular field of acoustical engineering has the program’s largest representation of alumni.

The IDE 487 senior class poses on campus with Mary Pilotte (second from far right), director of Engineering Education Undergraduate Degree Programs, and Christine Pekny (far right), Interdisciplinary Engineering (IDE) and Multidisciplinary Engineering (MDE) programs advisor. IDE is designed for students who want an engineering education but do not plan to practice engineering.