From first year calculus, to senior design, the ideal engineering curriculum has been discussed and reviewed many times. Canaan Reeverts, a Mines alum, came to speak to students in the Engineering and Sustainable Community Development course on Dec. 2. His lecture, “Redefining Engineering,” challenged the current understanding of what engineering education is and suggested changes for the future.
Reeverts graduated from Mines in 2013, but his path after graduation has been far from ordinary as he enjoys challenging the rules set out for him as an engineer.
“[I] wanted to create solutions, not just follow a path someone built for me,” Reeverts explained. In his mind, engineers should not simply deal with the “back end” of projects. Instead, they should pursue any chance to be involved heavily with the whole process.
With regards to engineering education, Reeverts spoke of the importance of the “core” classes incoming Mines freshmen and sophomores are required to take. For many students, these courses seem irrelevant for their major. Reeverts emphasizes, however, that these courses are essential for learning the framework for problem solving.
He chose Physics 1 as an example to break down the problem solving process. First, identify the problem at hand. Next, identify any constraints surrounding the problem. Third, make assumptions. Fourth, utilize a diagram and, finally, apply math.
This process is easily applied to the majority of classes students must take at Mines, regardless of major, but as Reeverts commented, these are also the same steps engineers in industry use to tackle problems throughout their day.
Reeverts ended his lecture by challenging those present to ask more questions. He listed out the four questions he asks himself before accepting any project.
- Who is this affecting?
- Who am I partnering with?
- What are the goals of the people involved with this project?
- How am I impacting society with my decisions?
These questions allow engineers to involve themselves with the entirety of the design process, not just the math and problem-solving portion of it. Reeverts hopes this shift in mentality can help the profession end its reputation as cold and lacking personality.
For the four years students are at Mines, they are simply expected to accept what they are told without question. This, however, is not enough in the real world. As engineers we have a huge ability to effect change on the world, and this all starts by being brave enough to ask why.