Final Thoughts

 

I love the quote by Parker Palmer used in this week’s blog prompt:

“In the midst of the powerful force-field of institutional life, where so much conspires to compromise the core values of my work, I have found firm ground on which to stand—the ground of personal and professional identity and integrity—and from which I can call myself, my colleagues, and my profession back to our true mission.”

I feel like this accurately describes my main goal as a professor. Working on the Flint Water Study team over the last year and a half has been an eye opening experience for me. I was the “dark side” of the engineering profession where the people who were supposed to be working for and protecting the public were actually causing them harm and then trying to cover up their wrong doings. While I don’t believe that these people woke up one day and decided that they wanted to lead poison an entire city, the choices they made and actions (or lack of actions) they took ended up harming an innocent population.

What I have learned through this experience is that there is definitely a cultural problem within these organizations (i.e. EPA and MDEQ) where they are more focused on meeting regulations by whatever means possible (even lying and cheating) rather than actually providing people with safe drinking water. But maybe there is also a major flaw in the way were are educating our future engineers. I know that when I was in undergrad we did not spend very much time discussing ethics or how we would/should handle situations that could come up in the professional world.

Through discussions in this class as well as with people from the engineering education department it does seem like we are moving in the right direction and putting more emphasis on ethics and showing students real world situations that they may have to face as professional engineers. But there is always room for improvement. As a future professor I plan to bring up ethics and ethical dilemmas in my classes as much as possible because I think it is key to developing good engineers. You can be the smartest most creative student but if you have no ethical values and are just in it for the money then are you really going to provide value to our society?

In “A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited” Parker J. Palmer’s statement really resonated with me: “Does education humanize us? Sometimes, but not nearly often enough.” He went on to say: “If higher education is to serve humane purposes, we who educate must insist that knowing is not enough, that we are not fully human until we recognize what we know and take responsibility for it”

This summarizes very well the point that I am trying to get across, we can’t just teach students the technical skills they need and expect them to be successful engineers there is also human aspect that is often overlooked or ignored in our field but is equally as important.

Communicating Science

At the beginning of the semester we had a class on communicating science, which came at the perfect time for me. My research group was planning a service trip to Flint, MI over spring break to go around to schools in the area to explain the science behind the Flint Water Crisis. They goal of the trip was twofold, 1) to educate the students so that they can better understand what happened and what they can do to help and 2) to get the students interested in science by showing them different demonstrations about water chemistry and corrosion. While many of the students in our group had given presentations on Flint, they were mostly at Civil Engineering conferences where most of the attendees had background knowledge on the crisis and water quality in general.

At first we thought we would be able to take the base presentation that out group has for conferences and adapt them so that students could follow them and stay engaged. However we soon realized that making a presentation on the science behind the Flint water crisis was going to be a much greater task than we initially thought. I think we came-up with at least 3 presentations before we finally found something that worked, and the students who actually went up to Flint were adapting the presentation throughout the week once they found out what worked and what didn’t work at each school.

This processes was really eye-opening to us. We realized that we were so invested in this project since we had be working on it and presenting on it for over a year and a half that there were a lot of things that we knew but wouldn’t be apparent to someone who wasn’t on our team. Luckily we had a student who was coming up to Flint with us who wasn’t actually a member of the Flint Water Study Team and actually wasn’t on the Environmental track of Civil Engineering so she was able to tell us when we were brushing over a concept that these students might not fully understand.

We also had to make the presentation engaging and relatable for the students so we had to think about what they were learning in their science classes and how we could incorporate it into the presentation. Someone in our group suggested we use the scientific method (observe, ask, test, analyze, observe again, and communicate) to help explain what happened. This is a concept that most students learn early on in their science classes so we assumed that the majority of our audience would be able to follow it. At first we thought this would just be a good thing to add to the end of our presentation once we had already discussed what happened in Flint and the science behind it, kind of like a conclusion to our presentation, but after a few meetings and a run through of our presentation we realized that it would actually be better if the scientific method was the theme for our presentation so we used it to tell the story of Flint.

While this seemed like an extremely long process at the time (it seemed like we were completely changing the presentation every time we met) I think it was a great learning experience for us all. We were able to step back from the work that we were doing and make sure it could be explained to younger students.

 

I don’t think google is making us stupid

Below is my response to “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” By NICHOLAS CARR

 

First of all, this was an extremely long post from someone who said that people generally don’t like reading things more than 3-4 paragraphs. I was half expecting to get to the end and have him say something about how “if you actually read this whole post you have proven me wrong” or something like that. I even skipped down to see if there was anything in that last paragraph but there wasn’t, so I actually read the whole thing. And it was painful…so I guess he kind of did prove that point. Maybe it’s just because I am extremely tired and it’s been a long week already (yes I know it’s only Tuesday) and also probably because I am already late on writing my blog, but I really did not understand why the author would write such a long post about how people have a short attention span because of the internet. Truly the only thing I can think of is that he is trying to show that this is true, but honestly if it is true most people probably wouldn’t read this post, I know I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to for this class.

Now back to the title of the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” I would say no it is not. While I agree that the internet may be creating a culture where we prefer to get our news in little snippets rather than lengthy stories, I don’t think that makes us any less smart, if anything it makes us more efficient. Now that being said, I grew up having google at my fingertips so maybe that makes me bias, but I feel like google is actually just another tool that can help you learn. I will say that students now a days don’t have to rely on memorizing everything that they have ever learn in school. Most basic facts can be looked up online so if you forgot something you learned in the previous year then you don’t necessary have to go back and sort through all your old notes, you can just go online and find what you are looking for, which I don’t see as a bad thing. I can’t see myself being in an emergency situation where I need to know the solubility product of Calcium Carbonate and can’t look it up. Now maybe this isn’t the case in a field such as medicine where you have a patient right in front of you that you need to treat right away but for me I don’t see why I need to waste my time memorizing information that I can easily look up. Instead it is more important for me to spend time understanding the fundamentals of chemistry and how to use the constants that I can just look up. As with everything, there are some downsides to google, (1) you need to make sure the source you are using is accurate and reliable, (2) there is definitely opportunities for students to miss use this resources, for example looking up solutions to homework problems and not actually working through them on their own.

I agree with Larry Sanger’s response to this article, I especially liked this quote at the end “to pretend that you can blame others (programmers, no less!) for your unwillingness to think long and hard is only a sign of how the problem itself resides within you. It is ultimately a problem of will, a failure to choose to think. If that is a problem of yours, you have no one to blame for it but yourself.”

Open Journal of Civil Engineering

The Open Journal of Civil Engineering is published by Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP), which is one of the largest Open Access publishers in the world. They have over 200 open access journals in a variety of different disciplines. An interesting fact about Scientific Research Publishing Inc. is that while it is a registered corporation in the state of Deleware, its primary place of building is actually in China.

SCIRP has been at the forefront of the open access movement since 2007. They fully enforce all of the official goals of the open access movement and has been producing many high quality open access journals with relatively low publication fees.  They are working toward membership in the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA).
How Open is SCIRP on the “Open Access Spectrum”?
SCIRP has signed the Budapest Open Access Initiative and embraces all 6 components of the open access spectrum (shown below)

open access

The main goal of the Open Journal of Civil Engineering (OJCE) is to:

“provide a platform for scientists and academicians all over the world to promote, share, and discuss various new issues and developments in different areas of civil engineering.”

They publish papers in aspects of civil engineering from construction to water supply and environmental engineering. They follow the generic SCIRP peer review process shown below:

review process.png