Sunday, September 30, 2007

Teaching engineers

What do we want our Universities to teach computer science and computer engineering students? I've lamented that teachings are sort of bipolar: flip-flopping between minutiae associated with implementation (and attendant lack of attention to design), and interesting but in the long run nearly useless theory. This week's New York Times Magazine describes a new university, Olin, which graduated it's first class last December. The article says they focus on teaching engineers to do the right thing, not just do the thing right. The description would have sounded way too artsy for me when I went to school, but from my current perspective, I think it would be a refreshing change. Engineers have a strong bias towards saying "yes" - they are taught to solve problems within given constraints. What I haven't seen as much of, is identification of which constraints are unreasonable and creative thinking about how to get better solutions by changing the constraints. We need more of those engineers.

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