Category: Engineering Education


Europe’s research framework encourages researchers to move around. The principle  “Researchers in Motion” underlies most of research funded by the European Union through its individual fellowship and its international training networks. For instance, all Marie Curie fellows must move to a country where they have not been living (for at least 24 months of the 36 months proceeding their application date). The EU offers support to researchers in motion through EURAXESS. This includes a database of fellowship and job openings.

Although I am not currently funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) research fellowship, I am still benefiting from support received through my prior MSCA Individual Fellowship (2014-2016) and networks I first established as Fulbright Fellow (2012-2013). These professional relationships help me conduct research and share (or “disseminate”) my results and findings. For both of these fellowships, I moved from my home in the USA to Ireland to conduct research full-time.

My first trip to Portugal occurred during my Fulbright in 2013, when Bill Williams, a colleague I had met at a conference in Greece, helped me secure support from Portugal for Inter-Country Lecturing. Bill organized an itinerary for me where I visited five universities and delivered four lectures and workshops. During that trip, I fell in love with the country.

Now, whenever I have reason to visit Portugal, I find a way to tack on a weekend before or after my business meetings. I’ve also booked an upcoming summer holiday there. Please see my prior post about the research meetings and ASIBEI conference I attended in Portugal during my recent visit.

I research engineering and design education, and I now teach introductory engineering and architecture technology in Ireland. It’s important for me to keep current and build new knowledge related to engineering, architecture, art, and urban design — as well as educational theory and practice. Here are some images of relevant sites in and around Lisbon, taken during my recent trip to the Iberian peninsula:

The following photos were taken at the newly-opened MAAT (Museum of Arts, Architecture and Technology) in Lisbon:

Next to MAAT is the Tejo Power Station museum (a former thermoelectric power plant that once supplied power to Lisbon and its surrounding region):

The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is another highlight of Lisbon:

 

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ASIBEI member countries.

Last week I plunged into the warm, sunny weather of Portugal. I’d been invited to present about interactions between higher education and the business sector, at an ASIBEI conference. The president’s office of Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal invited me and sponsored my attendance at the conference.

ASIBEI is the Ibero-American Association of Engineering Teaching Institutions. It involves the Portuguese and Spanish-speaking world. The organization’s “official languages ​​are Spanish and Portuguese, which can be used interchangeably” in all meetings. I was the linguistic outsider, requiring  my own translator. I was also the only person to present in English; I spoke slowly and the audience followed along enthusiastically.

With the support of my Head of School, I arrived a couple days early to meet with colleagues about research projects and grant proposals. On Monday before the conference, I met with lecturers and researchers from Instituto Superior Técnico, as picuted below:

 

Later that day, I met with Dr. Bill Williams. Bill has been working with me on gender in engineering research studies. He has published conference papers with me and has also been working with me as co-editors of a special focus IEEE issue. Here’s a photo of Bill during the ASIBEI conference, where he moderated a panel session:

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Dr. Bill Williams is seated in the middle, moderating a panel discussion at the ASIBEI conference.

On Tuesday morning, I traveled from Lisbon to Cascais to meet with the Chair of the Ireland Portugal Business Network, who provided a great deal of support for a grant proposal I submitted this past January. After meeting with him, I got to spend a couple hours on the beach in this resort town where he and his family live. They escaped the cold weather of Ireland for sunnier skies. I loved these sunny skies and I rented a lounge chair and umbrella for the afternoon on the small but beautiful “Queen’s Beach” of Cascais.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I joined the ASIBEI conference for work sessions, panel discussions, a visit to Setúbal’s city hall, and a tour of the Lauak factory that produces parts for Airbus, Honeywell, and many other well known companies. I was fascinated to learn about the production of the airplane parts, since my dad and I have done our fair share of airplane construction in the past.

I made a presentation on “The Business of Higher Ed: Research Skills for a Prosperous Future” that you can view on Prezi. Aiming to provide the audience with useful knowledge that would interest them and help them in the future, I discussed the intention of Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. I described two different MSCA programs that support researchers and help equip them to work with and within industry.

I had to hurry back to Dublin immediately following my panel presentation, to participate in our School’s program review Friday. The discussions with our evaluation panel were valuable and interesting, making the mid-night trip back to Ireland worthwhile.

Here are photos of the panel sessions:

And photos of the reception at City Hall:

Photos from the factory tour:

While in portugal, I also had a chance to visit the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, the new MAAT (Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia), and the Tejo Power Station museum (a former thermoelectric power plant that once supplied power to Lisbon and its surrounding region). See my next post for more images of the beautiful sites in and around Lisbon.

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After the lecture at KTH, with two librarians and two architecture profs, including my former classmate from Virginia Tech, Eric Stenberg.

Professor Jonte Burnhard invited me to KTH in Stockholm to deliver a guest lecture on what we–as education specialists, architecture educators, and researchers of engineering education–can learn from each other and from the pedagogical models used to teach architecture. Jonte had read a recent article, “Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education,” that I’d published along with John Marshall and Gavin Duffy in IJEE. You can access the article at: http://arrow.dit.ie/engscheleart2/102)

The learning and teaching center at KTH hosts this type of lecture/workshop every couple weeks, to get the institution’s staff thinking about and discussing good ways to teach. In addition to classroom educators, quite a few of KTH’s librarians also attended the event, as well.

While at KTH, I enjoyed a dozen small-group discussions on pedagogical topics, toured the brand new architecture building, and caught up with a former classmate, Eric Stenberg,  from Virginia Tech’s architecture program. I’m hoping to visit KTH again soon, since we have so many overlapping interests.

I stayed though the weekend, before heading to Brussels on Sunday evening, and I’ve attached photos of the Christmas sights.

 Catherine Simpson is here at DIT tonight describing the research she does as a Forensic Engineer. You can also call her an expert in thermal modeling and a Building Services Engineer.

She can make digital models of buildings and predict their future energy performance. She can also go into a functioning building to identify, analyze, and rectify errors in thermal performance. She says that very often, buildings do not end up performing the way experts predicted. These are skills she uses:

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Catherine says Forensic Engineers must avoid using clues as if they were actual evidence (of the problem and its causes). These are clues: complaints, anecdotes, consultant reports, BMS data, ad hoc solutions, staff theories, and staff observations. On the other hand, these are useful forms of evidence:

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Catherine models problems digitally and physically. She also develops theories that she can combine to test her theories:

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Catherine gave an example of a shopping mall that had a very windy atrium and a very steep heating bill. No one could identify the causes of these problems. But after six years experiencing these problems, the owners called her in.

With careful analysis of data she collected (using dozens of different routes, including studying air flow by blowing bubbles in crowded spaces where smoke tests couldn’t be used) she identified a number of problems. One was a poorly placed rotisserie oven that was triggering vents to open. Another problem was that the building controls “thought” the building’s vents were completely closed when many were only partially closed.

Catherine devised a £50k solution to closing the vents in winter that is saving the owner £60k every month, in heat alone. There were reduced wind drafts and reduced tenant complaints. She says it saved about £500k in capital and restored people’s confidence in the facility.

Here’s one tool she uses to measure air speed:

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She also uses thermal imaging to study air infiltration, like so:

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We use this kind of technology in our Energy Cube project. This is a picture from that class last week:


Catherine’s work involves fixing problems and also providing expert witness testimony. Forensic engineering seems fascinating! Catherine is a veritable Nancy Drew.

Forensic engineering, she says, is like a jigsaw. You’re given clues, you find evidence, simulation gives context, you test theories, and ultimately prove a solution. She obviously loves her job!

Shannon Chance IJEEI’m celebrating the publication of a new journal article today, with the help of Sally O’Neill. She’s one of the librarians here at DIT, and she secured permission and posted the article on DIT’s website, making it free for you and anyone else to download.

The publishing process is glacially slow. I submitted the paper in March 2014, based on a conference paper delivered in 2013. And here I am, in February 2016, with the final publication finally in hand.

Many time, in research, it takes time to see the results of your work. Seeing this in print helps make all these days, sitting at a computer analyzing text, feel more worthwhile. Once I can see that people are downloading it, and once I start getting feedback and citations in other people’s research papers, I’ll celebrate some more.

I know what I’ve learned through this research is useful, because I get to apply it in the classroom and in the design studio. The rewards of printed research are more slow to crystallize but also extremely important, especially for people who want to gain credibility in research and build a career around research.

This new article, written with the help of John Marshall in Michigan and Gavin Duffy here in Dublin, is about Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education. Simply put, we believe that design education and hands-on forms of learning can help improve the quality and experience of learning in engineering and other STEM disciplines. The results reported in this paper provide support for that claim.

To give you a feel for what I’m describing, this is how we learn in architecture:

Above are pictures from design studios in Lisbon at IST and one for a study abroad program  offered by Hampton University. Very, very hands-on!

These days I’m helping promote similar ways of teaching engineering, which looks similar in many respects:

These are photos from electrical and mechanical engineering projects I’ve helped conduct at Dublin Institute of Technology.

This brand new article is about a specific design studio, conducted at the University of Michigan, that blurred the boundaries distinguishing art and science. It involved students and teachers from architecture, materials science engineering, and art+design working together to design and build “SmartSurfaces.” The paper reports learning outcomes — things the students learned in the  class — as illustrated by the blogs they posted during the semester. Here’s a glimpse of what that experience was like for those students:

For this new paper, I created a matrix to describe design behaviors in relationship to epistemological development (which has to do with how we view knowledge). I compared what the students wrote in their blogs to the definitions in my chart. Doing this, I was able to identify development of design skills as a result of students working in groups, and I even pinpointed some instances of epistemological development. John and Gavin helped check the work so that it would be more credible and reliable. They offered perspectives of insiders in the studio (John) and outsiders interested in group-based learning, Problem Based Leaning (PBL), engineering education, and epistemological development (Gavin).

This article should be of interest to any teacher who wants to help students develop new design, design thinking, or epistemological skills. Please feel free to read it and email me any questions you have, at irelandbychance [at] gmail [dot] com.

Chance, S., Marshall, J. and Duffy, G. (2016) Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering EducationInternational Journal of Engineering Education Vol. 32, No. 1(B), pp. 364–383, 2016.

Our RoboSlam facilitators team has been growing this semester as we have been recruiting and training people to conduct their own RoboSlam robot-building workshops.

As it turns out, we also have also recruited a RoboSlam ambassador! Ten-year-old Luke Buckley, who I first met at ResearchNightDublin, attended a workshop on how to assemble robot circuitry that we held during Science Week. He rebuilt his robot on his very own, at home, and then brought his robot to school to show his classmates. He demonstrated how it worked and how to put it together.

The RoboSlam should get Luke into a programming workshop very soon (and then, who knows, maybe a facilitator training session, too). With enthusiasm like his, the sky’s the limit!

Here’s a note his mom sent to let us know about his experience. We love to receive followup stories from our participants–if you have any more, please email them on! We’re just a click away.

Dear Shannon,

I just wanted to say a big thank you for the RoboSlam workshop that my son, Luke attended. He asked me to say thank you from him too.

Just to give you some feedback on the outcome of your RoboSlam outreach activity, I thought that you might be interested to hear that Luke was able to disassemble and rebuild the robot on his own afterwards without any difficulty.  He also brought it into school (Glasnevin Educate Together National School) where he gave a demonstration to his class (31 pupils aged 10-11). Apparently the robot behaved perfectly during the demo and generated plenty of interest!

Many thanks again,

Niamh

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Luke O’Dowd at home, perfecting his robot design and testing it with an arena he built for himself. This robot is programmed to detect the change in color from black to white and to follow the line.

I’ve been helping out in DIT’s engineering design projects module again this year, which Micheál O’Flaherty, Fionnuala Farrell, and John Nolan have transformed from the ‘Energy Cube’ project we led last year to a project that involves the design of a model spaceship. Photos from yesterday’s performance testing class are included in the gallery directly below. I’m happy to report that all the egg-stronauts survived the crash test fully intact!

This past summer, Micheál and I presented a paper about the Energy Cube project in San Sebastian, Spain. (O’Flaherty M.P., Chance, S., Farrell, C.F. and Montague, C. Introducing New Engineering Students to Mechanical Concepts through an “Energy Cube” ProjectInternational Joint Conference on the Learner in Engineering Education (IJCLEE 2015), San Sebastian, Spain, July 6-9, 2015.)

Fionnuala and I travelled to the UK to present a paper on a different aspect of the project at a conference in Loughborough. (Farrell, C.F., Chance, S., O’Flaherty M.P., An energy cube project for teaching engineering design processInternational conference on engineering and product design education, Loughborough University, England, September 3-4, 2015.)

Earlier in the summer, I presented yet another aspect of our work in Orleans, France. (Beagon, U. et al. (2015) Using Theory to Improve Design Instruction in a New Common First-Year Programme For Engineers. Paper presented at 43rd. annual SEFI Conference June 29th.-July 2nd. 2015, Orléans, France.)

The Loughborough conference included a dinner at the UK National Space Centre, where I got to see historic satellites, space ships and rockets (see photo gallery) alongside engineers who had actually worked on their designs.

That's when dad and I were building an experimental aircraft. (that's still half done, I'm sorry to say).

Me and WUT’s PW-5.

I just spent a most unexpectedly sublime week in Warsaw. What a beautiful, walkable, and livable city! Just the right density — useful public transport, affordable bike rentals, green space at regular intervals, and architectural monuments galore.

My primary task was to conduct interviews with budding engineers. Over the course of the week, eleven Polish women (who are studying various sorts of physics and engineering) each volunteered an hour and a half to share their experiences with me. It was amazingly insightful to discover similarities and difference with the experiences of the 10 Irish and 11 foreign-born women I’ve interviewed at Dublin Institute of Technology. (I also have 11 interviews recorded with Portuguese women, but these must still be translated.)

Fortunately for me, the students in Poland can opt to take their classes in Polish, or English, or a mixture of both. These Polish women spoke English very well and were bold enough to grant me interviews in my own native tongue.

In the evening hours I had time to explore some sites, depicted in the photos below.

Orange trees along the entry IPS.

Orange trees along the entry IPS.

My Friday visit to the architecture school of the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) was icing on the cake after a week of engineering interviews, conducted across the bay from Lisbon at Escola Superior de Tecnologia do Barreiro (a branch of the Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal, where I had interviewed students their experiences as engineering students as part of my Marie Curie research project).

You might recall that I delivered workshops at IPS and IST as a Fulbright scholar, back in 2013 (click here for more).

For a little more fun on my last day in Lisbon on this trip, I took the Metro over to IST. There, I visited the first year studio to hear student teams present their urban analyses of Lisbon districts. I toured the 2nd-5th year studios with my gracious faculty hosts and I wrapped up the afternoon discussing recent work with PhD students from the Architecture Research Group who I’d met on my previous trip to Portugal. The doctoral students — Maria Bacharel Carreira, Luisa Cannas da Silva, Mafalda Panheco, and Sajjad Nazidizaji — and thier professor Teresa Valsassina Heitor took me for a beer at the end of the day.

IPS's Escola Superior de Tecnologia do Barreiro

IPS’s Escola Superior de Tecnologia do Barreiro (image from http://www.estbarreiro.ips.pt/)

Many thanks to my colleagues at IPS, Bill Williams and Raquel Barreira, who helped arrange and conduct interviews. Thanks also to the ISP students who provided interviews and the IST teachers and students who shared their work with me. I can’t wait to visit again!

“The Irish Times” is running a series on women in STEM. I was quoted in today’s article.

The reporter chopped out all the caveats a researcher like me uses (tends to, most, lends support…) but all in all I’m very pleased to have been able to bring student development theory into the conversation here.

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