Seely10 discusses the history of education in American engineering colleges:
“Recent efforts to re-emphasize design in engineering schools and develop a better balance with engineering science fit into a history that extends further into the past than two decades … the changes being proposed in the 1990s seek to undo an earlier “re-engineering” of engineering education in the United States, an effort that dominated the first half of this century. Those earlier changes culminated in a substantial reworking of engineering education in the period 1945-1965, and brought into place the style that current reformers wish to overturn, or at least modify. It was only after World War II that American engineering colleges completely embraced engineering science as the foundation of engineering education. That decision led to sharp reductions in the time and coursework devoted to practical skills such as drafting, surveying, and other traditional features of engineering curricula. Replacing them were courses in fundamental sciences, mathematics and engineering science.”
The lesson here is:10 “A good engineer … must strike a balance between knowing and doing.” The recognition of this balance was the impetus for the re-engineered curriculum that is the AE 2000; a curriculum with renewed emphasis on design and hands-on learning to balance the theory of the engineering sciences. Horizontal integration of engineering science topics with hands-on and design experiences is a priority. This is within a learning environment where communications and teamwork development is ubiquitous. Specifically, we have:9 Established a core curriculum
Provided more curricular choice at the upper division
Implemented continuous improvement procedures
Near the completion of the AE 2000 planning, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) announced new guidelines and criteria for program accreditation. The 1997 aerospace engineering program criteria proposed by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (http://www.aiaa.org) helped to finalize the first iteration of the AE 2000, particularly the upper-division courses. The outcomes-based AE 2000 assessment plan was in the spirit of that to be used by ABET evaluators. In 1999, the AE 2000 was successfully reviewed by ABET. We view this as validation of the new program plan and implementation.
Table 1 outlines the AE 2000. Fundamental science and mathematics courses, e.g., physics, calculus, etc., are taught outside the Engineering College. These are typically large courses designed to be non-discipline-specific in targeting their engineering audience, so they may service an entire college, or several colleges within the university. The content of these courses cannot be rapidly changed to accommodate the reforms of a single engineering department or school. This arrangement is a common source of the educational disconnects, discussed earlier.
Table 1: Aerospace Engineering Curriculum 2000 for B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering Sciences, effective fall 2000 semester.