Engineering Futures: Updating a Successful Professional Development Program to Address New Challenges
K. Colbry, C. McComb, J. Rojewski, A. Briliyanti, and D. Colbry
2019, ASEE 2019 Annual Conference and Exhibition
Engineering Futures (EF) is a professional development program developed by Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society, in the 1980s to provide undergraduate engineering students with the “soft skills” necessary for professional success. Originally, the EF program included a series of day-long, interactive workshops led by volunteer facilitators and hosted on-site at college campuses. The original sessions included People Skills (interpersonal problem communication and resolution); Team Chartering (understanding team dynamics); Group Process (tools for effective meetings); and Analytical Problem Solving (brainstorming, list reduction and evaluation criteria). Over the decades, the EF program adapted to meet the changing needs of undergraduate students, with options for shorter sessions and the addition of a module on Effective Presentation Skills in the early 2000s. In the 2010s, the EF program directors began to explore opportunities to expand the curriculum to address new challenges. A new partnership in 2015 led to the addition of two new modules: Equity, Inclusion & Engineering Ethics; and Research Mentoring. In 2017, Tau Beta Pi partnered with several other organizations in a successful proposal to the National Science Foundation to develop updated training materials focusing on communications, teamwork and leadership skills. These materials are being designed in a modular fashion that allows them to be adjusted for different audiences (undergraduates, graduate students, professionals) and the project includes funding for a “train the trainers” program that will enable the EF materials to be deployed nationally at little or no cost to hosting organizations. This paper provides a historical context for the EF program, describes the recent efforts to update and expand the curriculum, and provides insights from several years of participation and program evaluation data.