Aug. 27, 2020

The Future of Engineering Education

The Future of Engineering Education

Futurist Trond Arne Undheim interiews Babi Mitra, founding Executive Director of the New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) initiative at MIT.They talk about the urgent need to update the way we educate our engineers which is an effort happenin...


Futurist Trond Arne Undheim interiews Babi Mitra, founding Executive Director of the New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) initiative at MIT.

They talk about the urgent need to update the way we educate our engineers which is an effort happening at engineering schools worldwide, including at the top schools. The stakes on re-imagining education just got higher because of COVID-19. Is there really a need to rebuild engineering education from scratch? Which schools are at the forefront of the experimentation? What will education look like in the next decade? At MIT, the theme is still machines, but the emphasis is on building new types, advanced materials machines, living machines, renewable energy machines, and more.

My takeaway is that by re-imagining education, we correct for the highly theoretical way that engineering was taught over the past three decades. The thought was that there needed to be scientific rigor but the result was that the education ceased to be enjoyable.

Now, the realization is that exploration, discovery, and this somewhat nebulous idea of meta-cognition can all be fostered by a set of tweaks that put the students in charge of their own learning and liberate them to build things from the get-go, bring it back to real life challenges. When you add spades of positive reinforcement and blend in thoughtful, project based learning and external speakers that fit the educational context, you can inspire students even more than their professors can do alone.

Additional context about the show, the topics, and our guests, including show notes and a full list of podcast players that syndicate the show can be found at https://trondundheim.com/podcast/.

After listening, check out NEET as well as Babi Mitra's online profile:

For more about the host, including media coverage, books and more, see:

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Babi Mitra

Dr. Amitava ‘Babi’ Mitra is the founding Executive Director, New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, a program that was launched in 2017 to reimagine and transform MIT’s undergraduate engineering education. What he enjoys doing most is visioning, designing, setting up and operationalizing innovative ‘start-up’ educational initiatives. He has over twenty-five years’ experience in institution building, higher education, corporate e-learning, and distance education. He transformed a small e-learning R&D group into the profitable Knowledge Solutions Business at NIIT, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, USA as its Senior Vice-President. He is a founding member, Board of Governors of an NGO, Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation, Kumaon, India and as the founding Dean, School of Engineering & Technology, BML Munjal University(BMU), India he launched ‘Joy of Engineering’, a first-year hands-on course designed to get students engaged with engineering.

Dr. Mitra earned a B.E. (Honors), Chemical Engineering with Distinction (ranked third), and an M.Sc. (Honors) Chemistry (ranked second); both degrees were from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani. He earned a PhD in chemical engineering from BITS, Pilani, India; he conducted his research at the department of chemical engineering, MIT under the guidance of Professor Adel F. Sarofim. His NIEHS-funded research at MIT focused on modelling and controlling the production of mutagenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from coal combustion and led to peer-reviewed publications. Mitra studied at St. Columba’s School, New Delhi, from where he graduated with distinction; he was a National Science Talent Scholar and was ranked all-India 36th. He was ranked 175th on the all-India merit list of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Joint Entrance Examinations. He was born in New York City and grew up in India. His wife and he reside in Boston, Massachusetts as do his older son and daughter-in-law; his younger son is a senior in college in the US. He enjoys food, music, the intersects across people and technology, growing up with his children and playing squash.