Engineering program introduces changes in preparation for upcoming ABET audit
Farewell Digital Circuits and hello to first-semester chemistry and upper-level science electives. These are some of the flowchart change rumors floating around the student body, the pieces picked up here and there from office hour conversations and overheard small talk. No longer just rumors and ideas, these changes are soon to be real. The engineering course catalog improvements for the 2020 calendar year has been meticulously planned, debated, and refined by faculty, approved by the various committees, and received proper signatures and stamps of approval. By now, the plan is out of the university’s hands and onto the state for further approval.
Why make these changes now? Professor and Mechanical Department Head Robert Gerrick explains that the ideas behind these changes have been considered for some time, but the real driving factor is the upcoming ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) audit. The flowchart improvements are targeting “some areas within the ABET requirements where the university needs to strengthen,” as Professor Gerrick explains, as well as taking into consideration the feedback from the industry advisory board.
Many of these flowchart revisions are possible due to the recent updates to the ABET standards. For example, one change in the requirements is reducing the basic sciences and math credit requirements down to 30 credits, while Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University currently offers 33. Professor Gerrick cites this as one way ABET requirements “open up space for a new elective,” where the Aerospace Engineering Department was able to insert the much-needed Flight Mechanics course.
One of the most substantial changes is the replacement of the Digital Circuits course. For AE Astro students specifically, a new Microprocessors course will be substituted, which calls for the C Programming course as a pre-requisite. However, for ME students, the change is slightly different. An Electrical Engineering for Mechanical Engineers class will be created, which will cover “motors, generators, transistors, and other things ME students will need in their careers,” as Professor Gerrick explains. Linear Circuits will be the pre-requisite for this course.
A second change is the restructuring of the physics series. Physics III (focusing on electricity and magnetism) will remain largely unchanged, while “Physics I and II will be combined, keeping mostly Physics I content,” says Professor Gerrick. The new structure has two 4-credit courses, instead of the current 3, 3, 3, 1 (lab) credit structure.
The Digital Circuits and Physics revisions are just two of many updates to next year’s catalog. Some are quite large, while others are small, like the option to take an upper-level science elective instead of the current requirement strictly for upper-level math. Based on how these modifications may benefit a student, current students are able to decide to move up to a more recent flowchart (a 2019 flowchart student may move to 2020, but not the other way around).
Because the new flowcharts are so unique, College of Engineering Academic Advisor Paula Fuhst and her colleagues face a great challenge ahead for dealing with all of the ‘What If’ scenarios. Fuhst explains that “some of these new classes will not be ready until next year’s freshmen get that far.” The new classes are only guaranteed to be prepared by the time the 2020 freshmen need them, which means that a current student deciding to move up to the new flowchart may not be able to take all the classes listed. In this situation, Fuhst says the advisors will have to think about course substitutions instead of migrating to the new program in its entirety.
The 2020 aerospace and mechanical engineering flowcharts will be fittingly new–they are of a new decade after all. Fuhst showed a mockup of the new AE Aero flowchart, with red lines moving courses around, some semesters with 18 credits stacked, courses completely crossed out, and new classes popping up on the edges. Fuhst assured me that these are only drafts to illustrate exactly how courses need to be moved around and fit together like a big puzzle. For current students hoping to help out next year’s freshmen, be aware that your flowcharts look substantially different from theirs. Be sure to refer to academic advisors while the updates are unfamiliar.
When the new flowcharts become available, it would be in the best interest for all current aerospace and mechanical engineering students to think about how the updates may benefit their academic experience. Set up a meeting with an academic advisor for help with navigating the modifications. The flowchart updates will hopefully better prepare all future aerospace and mechanical engineers to come to ERAU.