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Why Engineering Curriculums Need to Leverage the Role of Innovation

Engineering is a profession that encompasses a wide-range of services and vocations. No matter what type of engineer someone wants to become, they need  a good education in order to be successful, but this is where some schools are falling short. According to entrepreneur.com, there are several ways to bridge the gap between industry requirements and academic curriculums.

Technology

Any good infrastructure needs to start with the right tools. The proper technology will provide the methods needed to teach students at a professional level, which will lead to competent and well-educated engineers when they graduate. By having quality technology, students will be better equipped to handle engineering problems out in the real world.

Teachers

Having the right instructor is also very important in any learning process. Studies show that people respond well to teachers who care. By introducing interactive classrooms and techniques, students can learn more effectively and feel comfortable providing feedback. Engaging in discussion groups, participating in role-play and having debates are all innovative ways students can learn. By including everyone in the process, nobody feels left out and the students end up helping each other.

Collaborators

Being too insular can be a bad thing, even in the most successful groups. Students should be able to collaborate on things like research studies, creating curriculums, and getting real-world experience, even visiting and attending rival universities. By having students and faculty working together, potential gaps in education can be filled, creating more well-rounded and experienced students. Getting students into internships is also key, since the real world is vastly different than the academic point of view one gets from sitting in a classroom.

Innovation

The field of engineering is extremely data-driven, and it’s not especially entertaining or colorful, therefore it is always important to encourage innovation. Teaching students basic business skills is another great way to create well-rounded students because it helps them combine their engineering degree with the skills to handle business strategies and startups. Creating open minds is very important in the field of engineering because it helps students to think outside the box.

Finding Your Fit

Every individual has his or her own unique set of skills, and brings with them different competencies. It is important to help people find jobs that are a good fit – that focus on their strengths and career goals. Having a good understanding of the field, the companies involved in the industry and the aspirations of the individual will help provide the best outcomes for all involved.  Ultimately, the goal is to have the perfect fit between the individual and the company. If schools actively expose their students’ to a variety of companies through internships and co-ops, it’s a win-win after all. Higher graduate employment rates help schools attract the best talent. Exposure to real world career experience helps the most talented students secure their ideal job after graduation.

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Robert Lang: Using Engineering to Bring Origami to Life

Robert Lang has worked as a physicist, engineer, and R&D manager. He has authored or co-authored over 80 technical publications and has 50 patents awarded/pending on semiconductor lasers, optics and integrated optoelectronics. He wrote his PhD thesis on semiconductor lasers, with a focus on laser geometries and spectral properties. He also worked as a physicist, researching lasers for NASA. In 2001 however, Robert Lang left all of that behind to pursue his lifelong passion of origami.

In the origami universe, Lang is highly renowned. He currently has a catalog of over 500 designs, but it’s not just his stunningly beautiful and highly detailed work that makes him famous. He is actually making a difference in the world. Some of his techniques have been applied towards fixing real-world engineering problems and complex medical procedures.

In addition to his own love for origami, he also enjoys helping others and has written books and created software to teach people how to implement designs. One of his programs, TreeMaker is able to construct a crease pattern from any simplistic “tree” (stick figure) drawing. His other program, ReferenceFinder, can take an existing pattern and provide a step-by-step computer-generated folding sequence. This folding program incorporates the seven truths about origami folding, known as the Huzita-Justin axioms. These are a set of mathematical rules related to the principles of paper folding.

While Lang was an artist-in-residence at MIT, he gave a lecture about origami and its relationship to mathematical notions. He also gave a highly-praised TED Talk entitled “The Math And Magic Of Origami”. During this lecture, he demonstrated how mathematics and the invention of an origami “language” have led to the industry-changing forms of origami that are starting to appear. We are no longer creating simple origami cranes. Based on its innate ability to fold and unfold at any time, the concept of origami has transformed how we design, manufacture, assemble and package many of today’s products. Origami is inspiring engineers to look beyond traditional designs to make “smart structures”. These new products are able to bend and stretch while providing incredible functionality. During his TED talk, he showed how engineers are basically using 7th-century Japanese art to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems. His foldable glass telescope was one of the highlights.

Thanks to pioneers like Robert Lang, companies have been able to take this design concept even further, creating new and improved versions of automobile airbags and bulletproof police shields. The technology has also impacted space travel, lace-free shoes, foldable kayaks, and temporary “cardborigami” shelters to help homeless people. Scientists studying undersea life now have an underwater bot to safely capture sea creatures for research. Even home decor has been revolutionized by origami lighting. In the health industry, GE Healthcare joined with Brigham Young University to design an origami cover for the arm extension of an operating room X-ray machine, and we now have surgical items that can enter narrow openings in the human body and unfold after insertion, such as probes, forceps, and stents.