I’m doing things a little differently for this week’s blog post. Instead of commentary on advocating for engineering, I want to update anyone who reads this on my life because right now my life is really exciting and I want to share my excitement.

So, I didn’t write a blog post for the past because I was pretty swamped with exams and homework. Almost all of my classes this semester have weekly homework which I would complain about I hadn’t written this post last year while I was in Wales. So instead, I’m appreciating the work I’ve been giving and studying hard. Sounds like a good plan, right? I’ll try to keep it up.

Last year at this time, I was in Wales planning a trip to Paris (my dream trip as a former French student) and thinking about which countries I wanted to visit over spring break. A year later, I’m no longer a world traveler. I’m focusing all my efforts into developing myself as an engineer and making a positive impact within the College of Engineering. So here’s what I’ve been up to recently:

As a Knight of St. Patrick, I polished my own sword to perfection.

As a Knight of St. Patrick, I polished my own sword to perfection.

I was recently named a Knight of St. Patrick, an honor bestowed to 8-15 upperclassmen within the College of Engineering who represent leadership, excellence in character, and exceptional contribution to the College of Engineering and its students. It’s one of the highest honors you can receive in engineering. I honestly cannot believe I was picked out of the hundreds of talented applicants, but I am so lucky because it has given me an opportunity to become good friends with other fellow leaders within the College of Engineering. So what’s next? As a Knight of St. Patrick, I’ll be pulling pranks on the College of Engineering with my fellow knights until the Knights of St. Patrick Ball on March 15!

CUBE Consulting continues to thrive, as it takes on 3 new consultants and a new project. We finished one project already this semester for a start up company and will now be working with the Student Sustainable Farms, which I believe will be an excellent project.  I love the work I’m doing with CUBE and cannot wait to see what new opportunities come up this semester. One of my current projects is to find means for traveling to the Junior Enterprise World Conference in Switzerland this August which would put Junior Enterprise USA officially on the map!

The College of Engineering will use a new group, Student Consultants on Teaching (SCOTs), to help evaluate new professors as they learn to teach university classes. One of the deans and an academic adviser run a class on teaching which is required for all first year professors. Part of this class includes a classroom observation and evaluation by the instructors. The instructors would like have students provide a student perspective for this classroom observation.  Last semester, I assisted with the development of this opportunity. Now, I’m excited to be conducting my first observation with the academic adviser in charge of the program. It will be a great way to look at university class instruction from a new perspective. I will also be serving as the student member of a team choosing the recipients of $20,000 teaching grants in engineering through SCOTs over the next few weeks.

CUBE's consultants are hard at work during this new semester accomplishing the next deliverable of their projects.

CUBE’s consultants are hard at work during this new semester accomplishing the next deliverable of their projects.

In Fall 2014, I will be an Engineering Learning Assistant for undeclared engineers, which means I’ll introduce freshman engineers to the University of Illinois and the College of Engineering. I’ll also help undeclared engineers determine what kind of engineer they would like to be. I’m really excited for this unique opportunity to showcase all types of engineering to freshman, but there will be a significant amount of planning (starting now!) in ensuring that students receive the tools they need to be both successful and choose a major. It’s a great opportunity for me to exercise my passion and knowledge within engineering education to create a meaningful curriculum for undeclared engineers to help freshmen determine their future career.

Finally, I’m assisting with a Koinonia retreat through St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, NFK 121 from March 7-9. It’s less than 2 weeks away! I’m really excited and for anyone reading this, I highly encourage you to ask me about NFK 121 if you’re curious because we would absolutely love to have you.

So I’m currently doing all of these things as well as classes, but I wouldn’t have my life be any other way. I love all of these activities and I am so fortunate to work with amazing people everyday. I recently found an excellent quote that describes exactly how I feel about my life right now:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” -Steve Jobs

I think I’ve found it.

That’s it from me this week! Thanks and have a great Tuesday!

“A major issue in engineering right now is teaching with PowerPoint,” a doctorate candidate at Swansea University told me in passing.

Students sitting near the speaker of all years and nationalities nodded their heads in agreement, whether they were full-time English/Welsh students, international student, exchange students, or Erasmus students.

Since classes began in January in Swansea, I’ve taken careful note of how my different professors taught their engineering courses due to my interest in engineering education. There are positive differences compared to my year and a half Illinois. For example: a number of my professors incorporate videos in their lectures, which I quite enjoy. However, in contrast, a number of my professors use PowerPoint extensively as a mode of teaching. For instance, one of my required chemical engineering courses that I’m taking at Swansea is thermodynamics.

Everyday my thermodynamics professor uses PowerPoint as his only method to convey information and material to students. Instead of working out problems for his students or showing his reasoning and common mistakes, my professor simply displays calculations that have already been completely finished and perfected. There is no student interaction and we are not shown where he found the values he used in the problem. Instead, we are told and then asked if we have any questions.

How are we students expected to form questions when we cannot work through the problem shown and see for ourselves where we do not understand?

The evolution of learning tools in the classroom.

I and my fellow classmates attend lecture solely to sign my name on attendance sheet. We wait until class is over and the current day’s PowerPoint is posted. Then I spend hours reading through and working the problems out myself because I was not given a chance in class to determine what I did not understand and no longer have a professor available to answer questions he never gave me time to formulate. After this, I must work on a worksheet over material to re-enforce what I have learned. However, I did not learn because of the manner the material was taught to me. So instead I struggle with my fellow students with the little guidance of the problems on PowerPoint, worked out with numbers which seem to appear out of thin air.

Learning is an interactive experience. Assigned worksheets will not add interaction to my education. PowerPoint will not provide me with an education experience. I do not ask for guided learning where the teacher watches over the pupil. I understand the UK education system is even less guided than the American system. However, I do ask for the teacher actually perform calculations and allow for input. It may take longer and sometimes the professor may make a mistake, but it is in catching that mistake that I will find my greatest glory. Why? Because it means that I am actually learning the material instead of simply reciting it like a trained animal. I am an engineer who wants to solve problems, but in order to do that, my professors must do more than teach. They must educate.

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