Purdue News

August 31, 2006

Purdue graduates first engineering education doctoral student

Tamara Moore
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University took another step forward to increase the number of teachers and educators with engineering backgrounds when it graduated its first engineering education doctoral student this month.

Tamara Moore of Indianapolis received her doctoral degree in engineering education and earned the outstanding graduate student award for engineering education this year.

The engineering education degree program was established in 2005 after Purdue received approval to grant graduate degrees in the field from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. In 2004 Purdue was the first university in the nation to establish an engineering education department. The Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Education was established the same year, and other universities, such as Utah State University, are following the trend by creating areas devoted to engineering education.

"There is a need for more teachers in preschool to 12th-grade (P-12) classrooms to have engineering backgrounds," said Heidi A. Diefes-Dux, associate professor in engineering education. "There also is an industry expectation and an educational desire to help educate engineers who are technically competent, can work effectively in a team environment and have a sense of the impact their work can have on the world."

The Engineering Dean's Council, Corporate Roundtable of the American Society for Engineering Education, Board on Engineering Education of the National Research Council and the National Academy of Engineering are calling for national engineering education reform. These reforms include developing more broadly educated engineers who can assume leadership roles in technology development and encouraging the engineering profession to take steps to ensure a well-prepared, motivated and diverse preschool to 12th-grade pathway of future engineering students.

Students completing the Purdue program can pursue careers in academia, business, government or foundations. Graduates also can be employed as professionals in K-12 educational systems working as educational specialists, consultants, directors of teaching and learning centers, and leaders of engineering diversity or outreach programs.

Moore has accepted a position as an assistant professor of mathematics education in the University of Minnesota College of Education.

"My background is math and I wanted to be a math teacher, but I have also always been interested in engineering, and the whole concept of engineering education intrigued me," she said. "Engineering education is in its infancy right now. I felt having an expertise in both math and engineering would make me more marketable.

"I do know having both the math and engineering background helped me get my position at the University of Minnesota."

Moore said she hopes to encourage future preschool to 12th-grade teachers to incorporate engineering concepts into their classroom curriculum.

"If someone asked me what an engineer does when I was 14 years old, I would not have known the answer," she said. "That is something I want to help change, and it has to start early — at the elementary level. My professional goals include helping teachers that go into the classroom to have the engineering skills and understanding to instill engineering concepts in their students and, hopefully, to encourage their students to study engineering."

The Purdue Department of Engineering Education is anticipating having 10 full-time graduate engineering education students enrolled this fall, in addition to the first cohort of 10 doctoral students who started in the fall of 2005. The department expects an enrollment of more than 40 graduate engineering education students in the program within the next five years.

Future plans for the Department of Engineering Education, in collaboration with Purdue's College of Engineering and College of Education, include educating and certifying high school teachers with an emphasis on engineering by 2007.

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, (765) 494-4192, csequin@purdue.edu

Source: Heidi A. Diefes-Dux, (765) 494-3887, hdiefes@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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