Empathy in engineering education: Notes from an informal chat

During our first Big Engineering Education (EER) Meet Up on May 14th, we held seven informal breakout sessions that we called Coffee Chats. One was on empathy in engineering education.

The main leaders of this session were: Dr. Carlos Efrén Mora from the Canary Islands of Spain and Assistant Professor of Departamento de Ingeniería Agraria, Náutica, Civil y Marítima Área de Construcciones Navales at University de La Lugana, and Dr. Sally Male, the Chair in Engineering Education at The University of Western Australia. Dr. Inês Direto and I (Dr. Shannon Chance) assisted. At least 27 individuals participated in the chat.

Following the event, Carlos sent an email documenting the event, which I have used to generate this blog. I believe it’s worth sharing this information as it can be a resource for others to learn from and use. If you read through, you’ll discover:

  • Something special each participant had to say about themselves.
  • Each person’s main interest in Empathy and Engineering Education.
  • Q1: How, if at all, do you intentionally develop empathy in your students?
  • Q2: How, if at all, do you observe or measure empathy in your students?
  • Q3: How, if at all, do you research empathy in engineering education?

Dear all,
Thank you so much for your contributions in our coffee-break session about Empathy in Engineering Education. I felt that the session was a success, and that our sharing of ideas, experiences and research was very helpful, pleasant, and productive. The session was a bit experimental, and we didn’t know at the beginning if our idea about using forms, text chat, and videoconference simultaneously would work, but it seemed to work well.

As promised, the coffee-break session was mainly about networking and sharing, and we didn’t want to keep this info for ourselves. (…) I am sharing with you all ideas and comments that emerged during the session. (…) Again, thank you for participating. I hope that this info is useful to you. I am looking forward to seeing you again soon.

With best regards, Carlos Efrén Mora

Email from Carlos

Below is an anonymized record of our communications.

Say something special about yourself.

  • I am a Marine Engineer, but I love Arduino stuff 🙂
  • Aerospace Engineering Education Afficionista
  • I have the Chair in Engineering Education at The University of Western Australia
  • I love teaching
  • I research how to develop competencies in engineering (teamwork, leadership, etc.) and how to develop effective pedagogical practices to promote those competencies
  • I’m teaching practice
  • I teach and research engineering ethics, sustainability, social responsibility, leadership, mentoring, identity, …. 
  • I’m delighted with this new EER communication platform!
  • My research: Humble practice in engineering
  • Process Engineering educator 🙂
  • Director of First-Year Engineering at York University in Canada.
  • Hi! I’m in my final year at Monash University in Australia, completing my bachelors degrees in Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering and Biomedical Science. As a side note I’m quite interested in the differences in teaching between the biomedical science and engineering faculties.
  • Passionate about understanding students’ mind
  • I’m a Psychologist
  • Really interested to understand the way that academic systems evolve, or don’t
  • I am a PhD student researching on the experiences of international female engineering students in Australia
  • Mechatronic engineer doing engineering education focusing on sustainability in engineering
  • Former K-12 STEM teacher
  • I would like to do something good for this world and I try it every day in small things and in my PhD research
  • Web Designer and Programmer / Teacher / Social Development Researcher
  • I would love to be helping to make the world a better place, through my actions and through teaching
  • I teach Engineering and I really enjoy it

What is your main interest in Empathy and Engineering Education?

  • Empathy is for me the key to access students’ confident, and a basic resource to motivate them and making them more productive, conscious, and improve society. My interest is learning how to use empathy as a driving feeling to improve students’ and teachers’ motivation.
  • We are working toward an inclusive campus climate and empathy seems like a good way to start teaching empathy to engineering students and researching empathy in engineering.
  • Currently doing research on ethics education.
  • I really believe that students learn better when we show to them that we care about their learning.
  • I think learning is directly connected to feeling safe, included and engaged, empathy plays a big role on that
  • How to develop in all students
  • Advancing empathy in my students’ experiences in their education and beyond.
  • Links to ethical engineering practice, sustainable development
  • Carlos’ student facilitator data!
  • How we can instill empathy as a key trait of engineers (through Eng Edu)
  • Align practice with GenZ interests
  • Seeking ways to help students develop and apply empathy
  • I’m an undergraduate student doing my final year project in investigating empathy and accessible practices in engineering student teams at my university, and I’m really interested in learning what research and information exists currently around empathy in academic settings, especially student-student empathetic practices.
  • Empathy in the classroom for learning engineering skills, relationship between instructors and students.
  • Empathy is key to diversity, inclusion and equity in Engineering.
  • Changing practice
  • Using empathy to understand intersectional identities.
  • We had a workshop on this and it failed badly! like to see what are the alternatives to this and if it can be used for sustainability.
  • Leading pre-college engineering education and interested in incorporating empathy as part of our K-12 engineering programs, which are led by a team of undergrad/grad students.
  • I think empathy can connect and if you are connected you can do great things.
  • Improve my Self About Empathy in Education because I am a teacher.
  • I work with Engineering students on their careers and employability skills and I’m interested to understand more about current thinking on this area.
  • For helping future engineers to understand the perspectives of stakeholders, to be more effective engineers.
  • I am an engineering teacher and I think that empathy is very important to connect with students.
  • I really believe that without empathy you cannot succeed in education or in the professional practice of engineering. And most importantly, it cannot be enjoyed.
Empathy, Compassion, Friendship

Q1: How, if at all, do you intentionally develop empathy in your students?

  • Most often, individual interactions. But also organized programs of study abroad and community engagement projects.
  • I try to actively look for opportunities in one-on-one interactions if it is needed but also I try to lead by example by being empathic myself.
  • Team-based learning; following a systematic framework to create diverse teams with different cognitive abilities and demographic backgrounds.
  • Not specifically empathy, but we talk about professional attitudes, human centered design; internationally talk about respectful listening.
  • Showing students case studies of engineering projects that failed because the engineers failed to engage with and empathize with people.  In design projects, include rubric criteria for plans of community involvement/consultation/engagement.  We are exploring adding community service learning so that students can engage with people and practice empathy.
  • I constantly emphasize (since the first day of class) how intelligent and capable they are. It is nothing based in theory. I try to make them to trust me and believe that I am there for them.
  • Encouraging students to think about what they are creating and how it will be used by people. How it will impact those people. Emphasizing it is not as an end in itself.
  • Stanford Design Thinking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FzFk3E5nxM
  • Not explicitly developed but seen as an enabler of good interaction.
  • Engage my undergrad/grad student team in co-designing our pre-college engineering education curriculum based on their area of study and interest in engineering. This empowers them and reinforces that their knowledge and experience are valued and important in helping to create the next generation of engineers.
  • Practicing empathy myself and maybe a little by introducing a collaborative teaching experience in the lab.
  • We use experiential learning through Humanitarian Engineering and inclusive design.
  • Overseas immersion activities, trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
  • They have to develop a project proposed by another group, but they cannot start until they know and can perfectly explain the wishes and needs of their “client”.
  • (1) try to be empathetic with students; (2) try to encourage students to view problems from the different perspectives of their stakeholders, and gain insight to the challenges of stakeholders.

In our audio discussion, we talked about learning activities we have led to help students develop empathy. Comments entered in the chat box during this discussion are included below.

  • Service learning and study abroad have been activities I have lad that were most effective.
  • TBL (team-based learning)
  • I try to when I am supervising project groups. Some students just have not ever been exposed.
  • I constantly emphasize (since the first day of class) how intelligent and capable they are. It is nothing based in theory. I try to make them to trust me and believe that I am there for them.
  • We have our students answer 2-3 one page long prompts in a learning journal each week.  We vary the prompts across all domains of their development, however, many of the prompts drive at their empathy for the various stakeholders in their work.
  • Respectful listening to community voices; Yanna Lambrinidou / Marc Edwards engineering ethics course.
  • Gift-giving experience using design thinking by Institute of Design at Stanford.
  • Encouraging students to think about how their developed products would be used by the end user, especially usability for people with disabilities.
  • [Asked to another participant] Can you expand on what that is? Sounds really nice. [Answer] Info on Gift-giving experience using design thinking by Institute of Design at Stanford is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FzFk3E5nxM
  • As empathy underpins trust, in group projects I engage the students in reflective writing and then formative peer assessment (i.e. no marks) which has a focus on making their collaboration more effective which gives them a shared goal
  • We have an explicit rule for all interactions. It is called the rule of 1/x.  Where x=the number of people in the interaction.  eg. if there are 5 student engineers on a team, each person is responsible to participate at the level of 1/5th.  This is for working products, conversation participation etc.  It ends up creating a self-awareness whereby people must be cognizant of their own contribution and those of others.
  • Critical educators create teams underpinned by diverse cognitive skills and cultural intelligence backgrounds.
  • I agree that discussing differences in class helps them understand that not everyone thinks as they do.
  • I see different types developments: active actions, and reflective actions
  • There’s a Special issue on ” “COVID-2019 Impacts on Education Systems and Future of Higher Education”.  Could you please help to publicise more widely within your education networks? I also invite you to submit your work related to this topic. See below link for more details https://www.mdpi.com/journal/education/special_issues/Future_of_Higher_Education
  • I also think helping them learn how to do reflections is key in this space.
  • Engage my undergrad/grad student team in co-designing our pre-college engineering education curriculum based on their area of study and interest in engineering. This empowers them and reinforces that their knowledge and experience are valued and important in helping to create the next generation of engineers.

Q2: How, if at all, do you observe or measure empathy in your students?

  • N/A for me, up to now
  • Other than by looking and instinct no I don’t measure
  • Surveys
  • There are reflective essays; but not “measure”
  • I observe, but unfortunately I do not measure, because I have never research this topic.
  • N/A
  • Measuring it by to see if they have listened to their partner (the one they interview to gift). They need to develop the best gift according to their partner’s needs.
  • Through reflective writing but not directly measured, inferred through effective reflection on relationship with colleagues.
  • Informal observations via weekly undergrad/grad student team meeting and post-activity discussions, as part of our pre-college engineering program.
  • I just observe.
  • Observe, but not measure. We see it in the outcomes of student assignments and work, particularly in project-based assessment designing solutions for clients.
  • I they are able to adapt their solutions to the “other”
  • I agree with what a lot of participants mentioned about observing but not measuring. I like seeing this unfold organically. On a tangential note, it has been interesting to see students empathise with academics grappling with online teaching in times like this.
  • Observe through their approach to other students; in how they approach their design projects, if they demonstrate understanding of perspectives, in the questions that they ask.

Comments entered into the Chat about Question 2: How, if at all, do you observe or measure empathy in your students?

  • I observe, but I do not measure 😦
  • I look at interactions and the way they express themselves about and towards others
  • They will definitely recognise this by means of SET (student evaluation of teachers)
  • This is really interesting; I consider empathy to be the highest point of respect between students and instructors. I thankfully have been positively rewarded by my students when I show that I care.
  • In architecture we have Student Performance Criteria for Human Behavior, for instance.
  • I think a smile from students is one of the best indicators! 🙂
  • No rubrics to measure.  Maybe something to research.  But I really want to develop empathy to students.
  • I don’t think we explicitly measure it, but it would depend on how you define empathy, or what behaviours you characterise it as.
  • Sometime I see the opposite (resistance among senior students to the respectful listening exercise).
  • I think it is in how they address their design problems, demonstrated understanding of stakeholder perspective in their projects.
  • I agree with this (…), it is inferred from actions but this confuses how you define empathy.
  • Informal observations via weekly student team meeting, post-activity discussions.
  • From a practitioner/teaching perspective, I measure it by levels of engagement and commitment to the course, when they move from grades to caring about the topics.
  • Measuring it by to see if they have listened to their partner (the one they interview to gift). They need to develop the best gift.
  • My project is on student-student interactions, but we’re planning on measuring empathetic thinking by looking at inclusive and accessible practices of students within student teams and other elements such a retention rate and application rate.
  • I agree with (…). I think we look at empathy in how they approach problems and engage with communities.
  • This was the one I was thinking of, for the IR: https://fetzer.org/sites/default/files/images/stories/pdf/selfmeasures/EMPATHY-InterpersonalReactivityIndex.pdf

Q3: How, if at all, do you research empathy in engineering education?

  • N/A for me, up to now
  • Not yet, but is definitely a project I am interested in.
  • Linking cultural intelligence to demographic factors, and then the results to cross-cultural interactions including empathetic behaviours in teams.
  • Research somewhat related to empathy = care, sustainability, ethics, societal context, listening to the community,…
  • As far as I experienced engineering is not a field you can go through alone easily, teams and groups as well as collaborations are essential and with all of this, of course empathy.
  • Empathy can let you feel what other people feels and helps you drive all the emotion in one direction for a bigger common goal.
  • We are considering using the Empathy Quotient (https://psychology-tools.com/test/empathy-quotient) to measure empathy in students.  This tool was originally developed by researchers working on Austism.
  • I do not  😦
  • N/A
  • Not yet.
  • I do not, for now
  • I research it tangentially – empathy is related to my research and highly linked.
  • No, I don´t rerearch empathy but I try to apply it and increase it.
  • I haven’t read much on empathy from a research perspective but am familiar with empathy as part of the design process.
  • Still thinking about this…..the research needs to translate into engineering practice that better meets the needs of our global community.

Entered into the Chat about Q3, How, if at all, are you researching the topic?

  • Not yet. But as we are looking at creating a more emphatic climate we will need to see if we are successful.
  • Empathy is part of the research, but we are starting a great group to do research on emotions in engineering education. For me individually I’m interested in understanding how instructor provide and receive emotional support.
  • I’m sending out a survey to all of the engineering students (including masters and PhD students) to gauge their attitudes towards the accessibility of student teams, and to see how those in the teams feel about the culture – so not a part of how empathy is being taught from a top-down perspective, but still looking at how empathy in general is engendered in an engineering context.
  • I’ve supervised research on trust in technology sharing in SMEs and this was shown to be very dependent upon empathy, interpersonal relationships and largely outside any management of the commercial relationship
  • @(…), that’s a very interesting idea. It would be good to understand if engineers even value empathy…
  • @(…) I am interested to see if they do! I have a feeling most engineering students won’t necessarily think of it in these terms’
  • Students tell me they need a mix of ways teams are composed [response from another participant] I think there are times for this but I’m almost exclusively working with students close to graduation in high stakes projects. [reply back] Yes, the year level matters a whole lot. [from a third person] How do you decide when to offer self-selection/ not?
  • I’ve been exploring the role of ethnicity in cross-cultural team activities and found interesting results; BME students significantly showed higher motivational ‘cultural intelligence’ as compared to Asian and White students that may suggest they may be more empathetic.
  • We do blended self-select: so min requirements such as at least 2 of each gender and two non-Dutch speakers and then self-select based on topic.
  • Students sometimes feel pressure from their friends and sometimes they want wider exposure. Because their friends want to group together every time and they don’t get the diversity they want. This is particularly acute for students form minority groups who don’t feel comfortable asking majority students to be in their teams. It takes action from teachers to help overcome that. [Agreement from 3 others, including] absolutely and this is so important [and] That’s why we have a hidden algorithm.
  •  In the UK we really need more women students to allow us to form diverse groups.
  • As someone who is still doing group projects, I usually prefer being allocated into a group – as someone who is in the minority of engineering students, I feel very weird trying to sort out my own group.
  • We are trying to find a space in the curriculum to reflect on the different teams that they have been a part of.  Give students an opportunity to think about self-selected vs assigned teams.  What were the challenges and how did they overcome them?

In the chat box, we also discussed how we see the teaching of empathy in engineering education

  • Critical
  • Succesful
  • Essential for effective engagement.
  • Missing
  • Undervalued
  • The way to support future global working environment
  • Fundamental if we want our students to really help to make the world a better place
  • Not as high as in architectural education.
  • It’s a need.
  • Important for fostering collaboration and self-reflection.

What is empathy in engineering education?

  • An understanding of other people
  • Empathy in Engineering Education is The Next New Boundary to Push
  • Empathy in Engineering Education is… finding better solutions
  • The root for care
  • Culturally hidden
  • Inclusivity
  • It Is a bridge to new knowledge and innovation
  • KEY for a more diverse and inclusive engineering culture = diverse and inclusive engineering solutions [another participant agreed] That’s certainly been my experience as an electrical engineering student…
  • Being involved in academic development I agree that the discipline differences are also shown by staff – this leads to the question of how do staff who find empathy difficult support students, particularly those from minority groups?
  • Some data …There is one unit in all Australian electrical engineering programs which directly addresses empathy as a learning outcome. [Asked by another] which unit? [And] Where about is the program? [Answer] It is more content than a learning outcome. https://www.deakin.edu.au/courses-search/unit.php?unit=SEJ101 and empathy for bais.
  • I think that empathy opens up the ability to understand different perspectives – which opens up different ways of framing problems and solving problems.
  • In the UK the National Student Survey asks if the lecturer makes the subject interesting, engineering scores 5% below the all subject average which may say something about staff empathy?

In the Chat at the wrap-up

  • Thank you for this session.  I learned a lot.
  • Many thanks! Really interesting discussion 🙂
  • Thank you, a very interactive session!
  • Thank you all! very interesting.
  • Thank you! Was great to take part and see you all again!
  • tnx 🙂

Bringing my Dad back into Focus

Losing a parent is emotionally difficult as I’m discovering each and every day. Others who have lost someone close provide the strongest sense of empathy–they know what we are going through and they offer shoulders on which to lean.

I truly appreciate all those who have sent a message or note, flowers, donations.

Those who gave their presence in these difficult days and made thoughtful gestures now hold a very special place in my heart. Those who made the kind effort to join us for Dad’s visitation, funeral, or interment helped provide a sense of confidence that tomorrow will be happier.

Through this blog post, I am bringing my Dad back into focus, if only for a moment. I aim to record my memories before they vanish.

Memories of our Dad

My dad, Donald Massie, truly loved to learn. This he passed to my sister (Heather) and me.

IMG_0947

Dad with Heather and me.

Dad always said Heather and I should try hard in school, for ourselves, not for him. “Your education,” he’d say, “is the only thing no one can take away.” …Bette Midler says it’s your dignity, but that actually can be taken, I believe!

Dad taught Heather and me many things, including how to guide our own learning—how to identify goals, determine what we wanted to know, and figure out how to accomplish learning it. Dad didn’t do our projects for us, as Heather pointed out at his funeral, but he was always there to help.

Dad was an extremely curious person, and he demonstrated his love of learning from the very start. As a small child, he read the Encyclopedia Britannica. This set of books occupied an entire shelf at my grandparents’ house, in all the years they owned it.

IMG_6750-1

Christmas 2017 or 2018: Shannon, Aongus, Heather, Danny, Glen, Dad, and Kitty Lee.

Even before Dad could read, he’d pour over the pages, avoiding whatever he could from the illustrations, my aunt Kitty told us in Dad’s final days, as we three–Heather, Kitty and I–gathered around Dad’s bedside, supported by the phenomenal nursing staff at Showalter Center and end-of-life experts from Carillion Clinic Hospice. Those were precious days we had together, and a priceless gift provided by those caring medical experts. Showalter’s culinary and administrative folks worked with us and nursing to make the week we had there together full of love and laughter. Dad was truly funny in the moments he could communicate; it was clear he’d built rapport with staff of all ages and backgrounds, and some of the residents like Sharon who became a fast friend to us all. Many of them came to call in Dad’s final week, and Heather helped connect to family via phone and friends and former colleagues who came to visit.

But back to the story of Dad’s lust for learning: he particularly loved reading Popular Mechanics and Scientific American, and any flying magazine he could get his hands on!

Dad also loved trying things out for himself. We learned to learn by doing, just as he had.

At the age of two, he’d observed how a gear shift worked and he gave it a go himself. He climbed up in the driver’s seat of the family Jeep and kicked the manual transmission out of gear. The Jeep rolled down the hill, wrapping around a tree, totaled. He clung happily to the steering wheel.

He’d also as a toddler, we are told, remove the screws from the furniture with his bare hands—so curious was he about how the chairs and table were assembled.

Growing up in the family farm in Fishersville, Virginia, provided many adventures for a kid with curiosity. Dad observed how to use a flexible tube to siphon liquid from a barrel. “No,” the doctor told my grandma, “he isn’t sick,” just a little drunk! Evidentially, that barrel contained hard cider.

Dad wasn’t the only kid in the family stirring up trouble.

Dad’s brother, Phil, was a few years older than him. One day Phil tied Dad to a tree while playing cowboys and Indians. Unexpectedly invited into town by their dad, Phil disappeared. When Phil remembered about my Dad, tied up to that tree, Phil kept mum. No one wanted to earn the ire of my grandad.

Dad spent the day there, strung to that tree.

Their family moved off the farm and into the city of Staunton.

Dad had a newspaper delivery route and he got to know my mom’s brother while doing that job. Dad played clarinet in the school band. He made friends he kept until the very end.

In high school, he got drafted. He got a limited deferment. He married my mom; he hurriedly completed a Bachelor’s degree—starting in Engineering but having to wrap up quickly to meet the limits imposed by Uncle Sam and thus shifting to Business.

IMG_0567

Dad with a newborn, me!

He and Mom decided to have a child before he shipped out for Vietnam, and I was born while he was in boot camp.

My sister came along, like clockwork, not long after his return. There are two-and-one-half years between us. The four lives of my immediate family were indelibly marked by that (senseless) war, in so many ways. Night duty and Agent Orange were particularly treacherous. Of course, I’d wish the whole thing away if I could, but I also recognize that, without that bloody war, Heather and I would not exist.

IMG_0560

Dad at work in Vietnam–so handsome!

In Vietnam, Dad served as an illustrator. In formation, fresh off the plane to Vietnam, his group of recruits was asked if anyone could draw. Hearing no other volunteers, dad put up his hand. Those years studying engineering made a clear difference.

Eventually, he combine that Business degree and illustrating experience, extending it with a Masters in Fine Art gained upon his return using the GI Bill. He subsequently worked as a photographer for the state of Virginia and then supervised the graphics department at the Vet School until his retirement, after 30 years with Virginia Tech.

I have to mention that Dad was the type of parent with kids in tow: he encouraged us to participate in clubs (especially 4-H where we learned so very much), band, and sports. He didn’t volunteer to run these events. He never attended a PTA meeting.

But he was in our corner nonetheless, cheering us on during every performance and award ceremony—and for those there were many.

IMG_0530

I was the friady-cat!

During childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, Heather and I spent many hours at Dad’s office—in the Annex during the 80s and the Vet School later on. We knew Dad’s colleagues well and we learned well from them. We were superbly advised and equipped for any art or photography project we could dream up. And dream we did.

I lived at home for university. Many lunchtimes during my Architecture studies were spent at the Ver School, surrounded by the professors and staff there–engaging in their enthusiastic lunch-time chat.

Many a night during my Bachelor’s and Master’s of Architecture programs were spent in the darkroom with Dad, rushing toward a deadline and/or creating photographic competition boards.

I adopted Dad’s drafting and jewelry equipment as my own. I learned 16mm film and to use 2.25 and 4×5 cameras. I passed on these skills, leading workshops and modules for Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies across my years there.

Scan_20191019 (3)

Dad’s beloved Musketeer.

He took us and just about everyone we knew up flying. A particularly poignant memory is flying to the site I’d chosen for my Bachelor’s thesis project on Outer Banks of North Carolina. Two friends from architecture school came along, and we timed our landing, two hours out, so that we’d touch down at sunrise. What a glorious day we had, documenting and exploring the island, walking into its town from lunch, splashing in the waves.

The year before in my fourth year of architecture school, Dad and I had rolled up our sleeves and started building a two-seat airplane. We commenced this project in our living room. Dad, my sister, mom, and I had built this house for ourselves.

Soon, the project got too big and we had to construct a large greenhouse on the side of the house.

Dad kept working on that project after I’d completed two Architecture degrees and left town for employment, first in Switzerland (1996-1997) and then in Hampton Roads (1998-2014). Unfortunately, Dad was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer in 1997. It was slow-growing but took its toll nonetheless. The vets doing research on cancer helped dad determine the right dose of Vitamin C to take throughout the day to extend his life as long as it did. Dad beat it for 22 1/2 years beyond his diagnosis.

We never finished that plane-building project, but last spring we donated all it, along with the materials we purchased to help finish the project, to Bototeourt Vocational high school (BTEC). Here’s hoping they can finish it or at least learn from what we’ve done!

These memories–all these memories. I must keep them alive.

My sister also wrote a beautiful and sincere tribute to Dad, and I want to share it as well.

My sister’s tribute to Dad

Image may contain: 1 person, suit and closeup

Photo of Donald Rae Massie – high school senior photo

Donald Rae Massie, my daddy, the world is different without you.
I could always rely on you when I had a question about anything.
I always said that you knew everything. One of the sharpest people I have ever known. With a memory I can only dream of having.
And ready to crack a joke to the very last. You liked to laugh.

When I was a kid and you were watching 60 Minutes, you would yell “Andy Rooney” and I would run through the house, to sit with you and watch and laugh.
When Jay Leno would do Headlines, you would yell “Headlines” and I would run through the house, to sit with you and watch and laugh.
At Christmas when we would give someone in the family a Jeff Foxworthy book, we would all sit and read and laugh until we cried, tears of joy.
Thank you for the love you gave me for irony and for a good laugh.

You were always ready to lend a hand, to help, to teach, to share.

Any project Shannon or I worked on was made better by your advice, your lending of tools, and your guidance on how to use them. We have heard from so many others who have said the same.
We learned to use cameras, compose photographs, develop prints, build our house, use power tools, solve problems, love people of all cultures and backgrounds, and have become strong independent women

I recently learned something that makes me very proud. While you were not keen to fight in Vietnam, you did not try to avoid serving, as those who were able to do so were those who came from wealth and privilege, and those who could not were poor, less advantaged, or of color, and you chose to stand with them and to serve. I thank you for this, even though this service caused so many of the health problems which you so valiantly battled.

Thank you for the love you gave me for nature and beauty – sunsets and oceans and mountains and wildlife and for living.
Thank you for my love of science – of light, of stars, of geology, of space.
Thank you for my love of art – light, color, image, composition,
Thank you for my love of photography – observing, composing, capturing, creating.
Thank you for my love of music – listening, playing, singing, creating.
Thank you for my love of telling a good story – a love which serves me every time I step on stage to embody a character, or when I set out to write a play.
Thank you for my love of the written word, the spoken word.
Thank you for my love of flight, and the joy you gave so many by taking each of us with you soaring through the skies.

What shall I do without you?
But to hold those good parts of me that you gave me and to nurture them.

You wanted every single second of life that God would give you, and your strength was a testament to everyone who had the honor of helping you in your last days. It shall stand for me as a light and way forward to value every minute that I have in this life.

Painting by Donald Rae Massie (Copywrite Donald Rae Massie, all rights reserved by Shannon and Heather)

As noted in Dad’s obituary, we welcome contributions to Warm Hearth Foundations, please designate to the Showalter staff appreciation fund. If you send direct, you can make the designation. The mailing address is: The Village Center • 2387 Warm Hearth Drive • Blacksburg, VA 24060 • (540) 552-9176

Discovering Budapest with SEFI

Engineering teachers from all across Europe headed to Budapest last week for the annual SEFI conference to share state-of-the art research and cutting-edge teaching methods. SEFI is the European Society for Engineering Education and this was the fourth time I attended the group’s annual conference.

As the annual SEFI meeting is one of the most interesting, informative and welcoming conferences you can encounter, engineering teachers from many corners of the globe–notably Australia, China, and the USA– joined as well.  The conference program includes many workshops, paper presentations, keynote addresses and plenty of fun social events.

This year, I helped lead three workshops and one special interest group meeting. I’ve uploaded photos of the activities where I was most involved.

Physical Computing

Here’s a glimpse of the workshop on Physical Computing I helped organize and run with my colleagues from TU Dublin–Paula Hannon, Damon Berry, and Mick Core. The title was “Physical Computing: A low-cost project-based approach to engineering education” and our abstract explained “One of the current trends in engineering education, often due to costs, is to use simulation software for the design and analysis of systems. However, using simulation packages as an alternative to real-world equipment may lead to a lack of student engagement and confidence, thereby reducing the impact of learning. This workshop presents an alternative mode of module delivery that facilitates practice-based learning, where students get hands-on practical computing using inexpensive, yet real-world equipment and technologies that can help transform notional self-directed learning to actual learning. In this workshop, participants will discuss the philosophy, rationale, and techniques used to teach Physical Computing at one Technological University.”

Phenomenography

The workshop UCL hosted on phenomenography, taught by Mike Miminiris, with assistance from Inês Direito and me was well attended and we all learned new techniques:

Engineering Education Research group

Here are a few pics of the special interest group meeting on Engineering Education Research, led by the EER WG  coordinator Tinne De Laet:

Being an Effective Peer Reviewer

We also held a workshop on reviewing manuscripts for journals as an effective peer reviewer, lead alongside the editors-in-chief of three of the top journals in engineering education worldwide–Kristina Edström, Lisa Benson, and John Mitchell–along with deputy editors Maartje van den Bogaard and Jonte Bernhard, and associate editors Adam Carbury and myself:

The delegation from UCL

Here’s a set of photos of the UCL crew at SEFI, and some of the other presentations UCL folks made:

Fun and learning combined

And now for some entertaining pics–some of the conference in general, and others featuring the very fun gala abroad a river cruise and the post-conference city sightseeing tour led by local architects:

 

 

Drawing Marcello

Theatro Marcello in Rome

Theatro Marcello in Rome

The OU students put the in-studio drawing lesson (that Daisy Williams delivered Monday) to work on site today.  We met at ISU’s academic center and headed over to the nearby Teatro Marcello to draw.  The students practiced the charcoal and pastel techniques they’ve been learning, while I used the mechanical pencil I had on hand.