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The debate has been continuing for decades on bridging the gap between engineering school and Industry and many approaches have been proposed like PBL, OBE, and CDIO which are being implemented in many schools across the globe.

So what really has forced us to rethink the engineering education paradigm?

There are many factors but some of the main being the new dynamics of the business world which forces the industry to be more competitive and they need engineering graduates who are ready with Industry skills. Individual’s productivity per dollar is becoming very important along with an accelerated product design cycle to compete in the market. The second factor which is forcing the change in engineering education is the availability of lower cost of computing components and various simulation tools which has made hands-on possible for students. 2-3 decades back it was not possible for students to perform experiments so easily at home or sitting in a park or table next to the bed. But today with affordable laptops, open-source simulation software, and low-cost computing boards like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and many other such boards have made it possible to perform experiments anywhere with unlimited thought dimensions.

Gone are the days when students needed to go to the classroom and listen to the professor for hours more in passive learning styles. Today online platforms have changed the scenario largely when courses are available anywhere anytime from best of the institutions and best of professors for no or very minimal costs.

Today's students can easily perform experiments and listen to lectures at their convenience. They can perform experiments with many added dimensions and hence it is easier today for students to be better prepared for Industry.

There has been a lot of studies on how to make students for industry. Engineering education can be divided into two broad categories. One preparing students for higher research and one for making applications in the product design industry and using innovative ways to contribute to industrial growth. As far as developing countries are concerned the second category certainly plays a very important role. In countries with a large manufacturing base, the second category again becomes very important.

So where is the fundamental problem?

2nd category of students more oriented towards applying knowledge can be made more contributing more ready for Industry by using some new approaches. The present scenario is something like swimming is being taught theoretically to students, but they are never being either shown the swimming pool or made to swim. Especially they are never being taken to swim in turbulent waters and that is where the problem lies. The major problem in countries like India is the quality of examination in many institutes which basically evaluates the memory of students and not the capability to apply the knowledge.

Doing some academic projects or being a part of one Industry project is not enough. Also maybe not every Institute or not every department or not every professor gets Industry projects. It is easy in theory but in reality, may not be possible.

Then how to bridge the gap?

Based on my more than 3 decades of experience in academics and Industry the second category of students can be made to excel in the industry and largely contribute to the growth of Industry and nations.

The First thing that needs to be changed is laboratory experiments which are still very traditional and in many institutes do not contain design or even if the design is there it is the academic design and not an Industry design in real sense.

For example, in a laboratory, two types of experiments are normally performed by students.

  1. Measure the important parameters of the given audio amplifier. (Normally in developing countries)

  2. Design an audio amplifier for the specifications as defined. (In good Institutes and developed countries)

Now how about if changes are made in the above experiment as Industry product design specifications

Design and Audio amplifier with specifications as defined. Compare its cost with the available product of similar specifications in the market. Reduce its cost and calculate the price for production of 10000 units. Your design must meet the required standards for the European market.

Changing experiments will make students think in terms of market and design. Which in turn will make students more oriented towards Industry and Entrepreneurship. Many experiments/projects and product design during the undergraduate tenure of a student will make him or her stronger in industry skills required.

Second, in a class, the professor can make two-three groups of students in Industry style. Each group acts like a corporate and there are designations assigned to each student just like Industry. A group of professors and a person with Industry experience can monitor the functioning of these micro corporates within the class. This will train the students in Industry operations. Points can be awarded to students and this can be issued to students as certifications. Which could help them in Industry either in getting the jobs or in performance after getting the jobs.

It is important to learn the subject but learning to apply the knowledge gained from that subject is more important.

Some good reads are:

1. Grasp by Sanjay Sarma and Luke Yoquinto, MIT, DOUBLEDAY, 2020

2. Make it Stick by Peter Brown, Peter C. Brown Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniel, THE BELKNAP PRESS of HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2014

3. The Engineering Business Nexus by S. H. Christensen et al.(eds.), Philosophy of Engineering and Technology 32, Springer, 2019

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