Joining the ranks of such universities as Princeton, Wesleyan, and University of Maryland, a case study of Stony Brook University’s (SBU)’s innovative engineering education courses will appear in a collection of similar innovations and showcased on ASEE.org as one of 14 exemplary programs. The case study, written by Sheila Tobias, a nationally-known figure in science and mathematics reform, and funded by the Teagle Foundation, specifically focused on TECH and Science, Technology, and Society (STAS) courses offered by the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) that are geared toward non-majors.
According to Dean Fotis Sotiropoulos, “In an era when exponential technological advances are driving economic growth, CEAS has responded to the need for a new education paradigm. One that recognizes the importance of every student, whether an engineering major or not, understanding the role of technology and engineering in their daily lives”.
Associate Provost and longtime Chair of the Department of Technology & Society David Ferguson is avidly involved in the TECH and STAS implementation at SBU and says that it began five years ago with a “strong feeling” that CEAS should be a part of the general education requirements on campus. The result is the new one-course TECH requirement for general education now known as the Stony Brook Curriculum
Thanks to the pioneering work of John Truxal, former CEAS Dean who laid the groundwork for the convergence of technology and liberal arts at SBU, undergraduate non-majors at SBU have their choice of 20 Tech and 12 STAS courses. Initiated by CEAS, the courses cover an array of topics including bioengineering, applied mathematics and technology, computer science, mechanical engineering, materials science, and sustainable energy. The case study focused on two of the currently offered courses, ESG 201: Learning from Disasters, and ESM 150: Materials of the Modern World.
In addition to David Ferguson, Professors Gary Halada and Jason Trelewicz from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering represented the university over the last several months as coursework was reviewed and prepared. Through several interviews, a true understanding of the high-level and practical approach to ESG 201 and ESM 150 was gained.
Halada says, “Working on this case study reinforces my belief that it is hard to live in the world today without understanding how things work. In my ESG 201 Learning from Disasters course, non-engineering majors range from sociology to business majors. And they all equally benefit from being seamlessly engaged in engineering education.”
Learning from Disasters, as well as Materials of the Modern World, was closely evaluated with an analysis of the content, teaching methods, and learning outcomes. Halada’s course begins by defining engineering disasters and their impact on society. Modules, such as engineering ethics and engineering design, are part of the course as well video analysis of major disasters.
Similarly, Jason Trelewicz’s undergraduate course, ESM 150: Materials of the Modern World is based on engineering fundamentals with particular focus on materials science placed in a real-world context. While Halada’s class is the result of re-engineering a course that was previously offered, Trelewicz’s course used for the case study was completely new and developed by Trelewicz as part of his “vision to engage all students, regardless of major, in materials science and engineering”. The first year the course was offered, Trelewicz had 40 students enrolled and now over 140 students register each semester.
“Offering this course to non-majors is a win-win for the university, the students, and the community as a whole. New materials play a critical role in all of the technological advancements students use in everyday life, and they consequently provide real-world context for understanding the societal impacts of science and engineering,” explains Trelewicz.
With materials science featured in both ESG 201 and ESM 150, the students are exposed to something tangible and unique. The connections Halada and Trelewicz make between engineering science, materials, and technology enable non-majors to build a new understanding of engineering concepts that have transformed our society.