Carleton engineers trained to make the first move

If you’re not the lead dog, the view is always the same. And, if you’re not making things happen, you could be waiting a long time for the next opportunity. For Samy Mahmoud, Dean of Engineering and Design at Carleton, taking a proactive approach in engineering is vital for success.

“I am very proud of the fact that at Carleton we have shifted the paradigm by teaching our engineering students to be very proactive problem-solvers,” he says. “The old role of the engineer was to sit back and wait for a problem to arrive at the door and then develop a solution. Today, however, our students are learning how to go out and identify issues, research these issues, and propose solutions. We tell them that their role is to shape the future, not wait for it to happen.”

This has had a real impact on how education is delivered in the faculty, including the development of new and diverse programs to respond to society’s changing needs. “Over the past 20 years, programs such as bio-medical or software engineering have been developed in addition to the traditional programs,” says Carleton Environmental Engineering Professor Pascale Champagne. “Society’s needs are changing and so are we.” In addition, Carleton students are taking different courses to prepare them for this new role including professional ethics, communication skills, and the role of technology in society.

Fortunately, engineers are well-suited to adopt their new social role for at least three reasons. First is the way they learn. “Engineers have a concrete, sequential learning style,” explains Carleton Psychology Professor Tim Pychyl. “As opposed to the abstract and random style more common in other disciplines, these folks approach problems in a very linear way.”

Second, a recent Canadian study found individuals typically attracted to engineering share a common desire to make the world a better place.

Third, more engineers are coming from other countries to work in Canada. “International engineers often bring different knowledge and experience to the profession,” says Ken McMartin, Manager of Carleton’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Laboratories and current president of the Professional Engineers of Ontario.

As someone who has done a lot of team building over the years, Assistant Dean Jim Simpson is clear that the characteristics of this new proactive engineer will be a valuable asset to any group. “What engineers bring to the table is a linear and logical way of thinking and the desire to save peoples lives,” he states. “The most successful students ultimately are often those who are both good linear thinkers as well as good with people. They really help to make good things happen,” adding: “That’s the kind of person I’d like to hire.”

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This entry was written by Martha Attridge Bufton and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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