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RE: Engineering Education & Professional Practice

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Neil,
Thanks for the response - I find that I agree with you very much. I
think you addressed one of the main problems very well" I have often
felt and said that some of our brightest students go to the wrong
schools; they eventually catch up but there sure is a waste of effort
and probably some frustration on their part." There is no doubt in my
mind that this is the case and it substantiates what I have been saying
- each school is geared for a different goal and this is often not clear
to students who choose schools by reputation or popularity alone.

In answer to your first question - No! I am not sure if it is
Architecture or Architectural/Engineering. I know it is not intended to
prepare these students for Civil Engineering and COD does have a
Construction Management Program which is separate from their
Architecture program. It is promoted as Architecture, but the
preparation is to allow the student to enter both Pomona and San Luis
Obispo. When I was hired I was told to compare the course to what
Cal-Poly offered, but there was only one course being taught that fit
the description and the course number - this was Paul Fratessa's first
class in Static's. As I mentioned, I e-mailed Paul and he responded by
sending me a copy of the syllabus for his class. 

The two are suppose to be identical. The problem as I stressed is that
the past instructor was an Architect and from reviewing the work of
students that took her class, dropped out for various reasons and ended
up in my class - she strayed from the syllabus tremendously. I don't
know how the school enforces conformance of courses intending to
transfer credit, but the students who finished the course could not
possibly enter the second semester Strength of Materials course and
understand what was going on. 

When I started, I covered 60% of Paul's syllabus primarily due to my
lack of training in teaching combined with the student's lack of math
pre-requisites. The first year we didn't even touch Truss design or
Deflection principles. However, this year we are probably between 85 and
90% of the syllabus. I've figured out some of the deficiencies that
could help the students. One, for example, was that in the past, to
accommodate the instructors work schedule, the class was taught one day
a week - Friday's from 8:00am to 1:00pm. This was ludicrous. By the time
the students returned the next week, they had forgotten everything that
they were taught and had slacked off enough so as not to complete the
homework assignments.

I got the course changed to twice a week and this helped a great deal by
allowing the students to digest the information at smaller portions and
reviewing the work they were assigned at the start of each class (I
don't collect homework as I don't have the time to grade it but I do
bring students up to the board and let them work through problems to
find out what they're weaknesses are).

The lack of math pre-requisites is what I am addressing now. I can move
them ahead and complete the course so it can be transferred without
deficiencies, but not until the students entering the class had a
stronger foundation in math. Now the problem becomes one of
socioeconomic issues. Predominantly lower economic Hispanic families who
push their children into the work world instead of promoting education
and college. The desire is there and this is what needs to be
cultivated. Any time you have a student who works full time and aspires
to be more by attending college, paying for it themselves and having the
desire to go further - then that student deserves whatever break we can
give them to help them attain their goals. In the end, they overcome
whatever diversity is placed in their paths and become an asset to each
of us in practice. 

I'm not sure it really matters as my comments were not so much aimed at
what NCSEA is proposing as it is a general comment of Architecture and
Engineering (or combined) curriculums in general. If I knew enough about
Architecture to respond to a similar post that suggests the AIA get more
involved in the planning of the Architectural curriculum I think I would
respond in very much the same way.

I don't mean to be verbose (or more so than usual) but I am fearful of
creating a curriculum that flunks out too many of the students for the
wrong reasons. My experience in school(s) was very much like your own
although I did not have the number of drafting classes that you had
(except back in 68 at Southern Illinois University where the first two
years in Pre-engineering were predominantly mechanical drafting
courses). I was never required to take drafting courses because I worked
full time and had acquired by drafting skills in the field. This seemed
adequate for most of the schools I went to. 

I certainly was not trying to imply that Cal-Poly (either campus) was a
walk in the park. I do know Paul Fratessa (hopefully he is not reading
this) and his reputation as a very good, but very strict and demanding
instructor. When I teach my students I try to prepare them for the
possibility of having Paul as an instructor. However, I have to take a
different approach and consider the issues of the students background as
well as what is needed to inspire rather than discourage the student
from going on.

I started Architecture at U of Illinois (Chicago Circle Campus) after a
stint in the Army Reserve in 1971. Prior to 1971 I was enrolled in
Pre-engineering at Southern Illinois University as I mentioned, but this
was from 1968 and as some of you remember, most campuses shut down early
during the student riots in 1969 - and this is why I went into the
service (68 and 1-A). As you mentioned, the first two years at both
schools (including Loyola Marymount) was devoted to getting past the
"flunk-out" courses. I finished three years in Architecture and became
discontented. I knew I would not be a good Architect.

After 8 years of business (and business courses at Loyola and DePaul in
Chicago) I moved to California where I re-entered the Building Industry
in 1980 working full time and going to school full time (at 30 years
old). 

The point to all of this is that I believe those who flunk do not do so
because the school is attempting to weed out and take the pick of the
crop, but because they don't have the desire to complete the curriculum.
However, now that I have become a teacher, I discovered that our society
is much more fragile than I experienced because my personal experiences
were with students from more affluent families who where either lazy or
simply not interested in finishing the curriculum.

I think I bared my soul on this one by pointing out that I was such as
good student in high school - I was in the top 85% of my class :>) I
make some fun of it, but the fact holds - I was a very poor student who
became (in my opinion) a good engineer. I needed more practicality in my
education than was offered to me until I made it to CSUN. Loyola
Marymount got me through the Thermo, Fluids, Soils and Statistics
classes because the instructors were good (not to mention one of my
favorites Prof. Franklin Fisher who taught Advanced Mechanics of
Materials and a lower division Mechanics of Materials class).

I hope I can end it here as it was not my intention to berate any
scholastic institution but to point out that each school has serves a
different purpose and as you pointed out - most students choose the
wrong school for the wrong reasons. Possibly, this is where the system
must change - by identifying what role the schools play in our
profession rather than attempting to make each one of them conform to a
uniform set of scholastic standards.
 
Dennis S. Wish, PE
California Professional Engineer
The Structuralist.Net Information Infrastructure


-----Original Message-----
From: Neil Moore [mailto:nmoore(--nospam--at)innercite.com] 
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2001 8:43 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: RE: Engineering Education & Professional Practice

Dennis:

Are you sure that it is "Mirror Image" in architectural engineering?  I
checked the curriculum at West Valley College in Saratoga and it looked
like their course was "Mirror Image" for the architecture only.  

In reviewing a 1994-97 Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) catalog, the following
majors are listed in the College of Architecture and Environmental
Design:
1.	Architectural Engineering which will provide you with a BS
degree. - 4
years
2.	Architecture, where you can get a B. Arch and Masters - 5 years
for B. Arch
3.	City and Regional Planning, which provides a BS and a MCRP.
          with the college of engineering - Transportation Planning - a
MCRP/MS
4.	Construction Management - BS
5.	Landscape Architecture - BS.

Cal Poly also has a separate College of Engineering  which offers nine
majors, including civil.  I am aware that some employers have hired
civil
engineers from Poly thinking that they were getting ARCE's and there was
some problems.  That is unfortunate.................

Neil Moore, S.E.
neil moore and associates

 


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