Professor to explore global emergence of engineering

Jan 24, 2006

Gary Downey, a professor science and technology in society in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to research the emergence of the engineering profession in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, and the United States.

The project "Engineers and the Metrics of Progress," will be based on ethnographic interviews, participant observation, and extensive collection of primary and secondary documents to map engineering education in reverse chronology and ideas of progress in chronological order.

Engineers in France "have valued mathematical knowledge and sought to work for the state where they have constituted the country's highest ranked occupation," said Downey. "Whereas engineers in the United Kingdom have valued practical knowledge and worked primarily in the private sector, where they have constituted a relatively low-ranked occupation. In Germany the status of engineering rose after unification in 1870 when precision techniks came to be seen as a new way of achieving progress by emancipating the German spirit."

As principal investigator for the $172,000 award, Downey has been charged to complete a book manuscript with former Virginia Tech graduate student Juan Lucena, who is now an associate professor at the Colorado School of Mines.

By following how engineers have responded to different ideas of progress, Downey and Lucena seek to show that engineers have been key figures in promoting the idea of the nation around the world. Understanding the relationship between engineering and nations helps to explain the struggles of engineers today to redefine engineering education in the context of globalization. Downey and Lucena began this research to provide material for students in their popular Engineering Cultures course.

Downy has also received an $18,000 NSF grant to support "Locating Engineers: Education, Knowledge, Desire," the first of three annual international research workshops under the auspices of the International Network for Engineering Studies (INES). Reform in engineering education has become an object of intense interest and desire in countries throughout the world. This Department of Science and Technology in Society workshop, to be held at Virginia Tech in September 2006, will bring together researchers in the history, social and cultural studies, and philosophy of engineering education to address what is at stake in the contents of engineering education.

Hayden Griffin, chair of the Department of Engineering Education, and Joseph Pitt, chair of the Department of Philosophy, are co-principal investigators with Department of Science and Technology in Society Ph.D. student Sharon Ruff serving as the graduate student coordinator.

Source: Virginia Tech

Explore further: Researchers discover low-grade nonwoven cotton picks up 50 times own weight of oil

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Designing exascale computers

Jul 23, 2014

"Imagine a heart surgeon operating to repair a blocked coronary artery. Someday soon, the surgeon might run a detailed computer simulation of blood flowing through the patient's arteries, showing how millions ...

Tokyo police make arrest in massive data leak case

Jul 17, 2014

Tokyo police said Thursday they had arrested an engineer for allegedly stealing massive amounts of personal data from an educational services firm, a leak that may ultimately affect more than 20 million people.

US scientists turn to public to help fund research

Jul 09, 2014

Duke University professor Kathleen Pryer has received her share of grant money. But for her newest project, she's getting help from a retired nurse in Canada and a 17-year-old in Arkansas.

Survey: Math, science grads earn top dollar

Jul 08, 2014

A survey by the Department of Education suggests it may matter less whether your alma mater is public or private than what you study—math and science in particular earning recent graduates the most money.

Recommended for you

Iliad founder says T-Mobile offer is 'real'

8 hours ago

French telecom upstart Iliad's founder said Friday that the company's offer for US-based T-Mobile is "real" and that he is open to working with partners on a deal.

Law changed to allow 'unlocking' cellphones

8 hours ago

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law on Friday making it legal once again to unlock a cellphone without permission from a wireless provider, so long as the service contract has expired.

Social network challenges end in tragedy

8 hours ago

Online challenges daring people to set themselves ablaze or douse themselves in ice water are racking up casualties and fueling wonder regarding idiocy in the Internet age.

Microsoft sues Samsung alleging contract breach

8 hours ago

Microsoft on Friday sued Samsung in federal court claiming the South Korean giant had breached a contract over cross-license technology used in the fiercely competitive smartphone market.

States debate digital currency

9 hours ago

Now that consumers can use digital currencies like bitcoin to buy rugs from Overstock.com, pay for Peruvian pork sandwiches from a food truck in Washington, D.C., and even make donations to political action committees, states ...

User comments : 0