Tomorrow’s engineering education must be holistic and complete — an education for the whole person.
Right now, only the lower two floors of Engineering Hall are open and in use; the remaining floors will be occupied by next summer. Each floor has a theme. The second floor is devoted to sensors, nanoscale devices and controls, the third to health and human performance, the fourth to water and water quality. The building is not constructed around engineering departments but rather around engineering challenges and Marquette’s specialties.
The hope is that by laying out the college’s strategic interests and demonstrating a commitment to rethinking engineering education in America, Engineering Hall will become a catalyst for growth. It seems to be working. At 338 students, the college’s 2011 freshman class is the largest in a decade. As planned, the glass walls of Engineering Hall are providing an important and enticing window to the future of engineering — engineering on display.
That means encouraging cross-pollination across engineering disciplines and other branches of science altogether because it’s unlikely that any one branch will straighten out our tangled global troubles. For example, clean water isn’t just about engineering. It’s about chemistry, computer controls, biology, energy and business. Engineers must understand everything from ethics to culture to politics and budgets. Tomorrow’s engineering education must be holistic and complete — an education for the whole person.
It’s true. Not just in the high-bay EMST lab but everywhere in Engineering Hall. There’s an array of 130 sensors welded to beams, embedded in footings, and mounted in pipes and ducts. The building is constantly supplying information about itself for the benefit of faculty and students. Water usage, temperatures, energy consumption, vibration — all these measurements and many more will be available on a 65-inch LCD touchscreen monitor mounted near the first-floor elevators and remotely on the Internet, anywhere in the world. Readings from strain gauges in steel braces and anemometers on the upper floors, taken together, can reveal the building’s load and deflection in a storm. “It’s one thing to teach wind shear,” says Switzenbaum. “It’s another to be able to see it on display.”
At left, a project for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation tests the durability of a joint on a 2,000-pound steel highway sign post by vibrating it two times per second around the clock with an agitator in the Engineering Materials and Structural Testing Laboratory. Above, students can check out an array of tools from the tool crib. 7 // Illuminator of Innovation