Pohlman at NAE Symposium

Every college student is used to the typical schedule of midterms, and final exams with classes and lessons in between.  But what if you could finish your degree on a timetable and at a pace that works best for you? Our own mechanical engineering professor Dr. Pohlman is in Irvine, California to propose a shift to the way college curriculum is taught.
Pohlman was selected along with other professors across the country to be a part of the National Academy of Engineers Frontiers of Engineering Symposium.  At the symposium, the participants will present and discuss various ideas under the realm of engineering. 
“My crazy idea is why do we make students take the 4 or 5 year plan, how do we make it so that if they could demonstrate the competencies in a shorter time frame, let them graduate early,” Pohlman said.  “But then on the other end of the spectrum, we have a number of students that are very dedicated to the craft of wanting to finish an engineering degree and they want and seek and often use more time in classes.”
Pohlman said there are a lot of students who repeat classes because they want more time to immerse themselves into the subject matter and he doesn’t like that failing the is the only option the current system gives for that.
“My preference is could we take more time with those students that are still dedicated to it, that still want to understand it and move at a pace that is more appropriate for them,” Pohlman said.  “The challenge is that I have multiple paces, I have people marching at different speeds; they’re all going to get to the same destination, but some are going to run, some are going to walk, and some are going to crawl.”
At the symposium, Pohlman is hoping to get feedback from other people involved in engineering higher education.  Some schools may have tried a system different than the semester-style system we use, and he’s hoping to learn from others’ mistakes and improve the system.
Because students can just join our engineering program once they get accepted into NIU, employers know our students work hard and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.  Pohlman wants our students to continue to be as marketable as they are now and thinks his curriculum change idea could help our engineering students. 
He also added that the amount of student organizations we offer allows students to get the hands-on work they need in the workforce.  If students wanted to get more hands-on work to coincide with the concepts their learning in class, the proposed curriculum shift could allow students to do so.
“I want to represent who are students in engineering education; we’re not as exclusive as other universities, and by avoiding that exclusivity, we can graduate engineers that as our employers like to say, ‘ know how to ‘do’ areally really well’” Pohlman said.  “I want to give the world more of our engineers that can get stuff done rather than have students fail because of a 16-week semester in our system.” 

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