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Industry Involvement in Developing Soft Skills for Students in the College of Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona. ASEE CIEC Conference Phoenix, AZ, February 6-10, 2013. Dr. Norali Pernalete, Dr. Cordelia Ontiveros and Dr. Phil Rosenkrantz,

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asee ciec conference phoenix az february 6 10 2013
Industry Involvement in Developing Soft Skills for Students in the College of Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona

ASEE CIEC ConferencePhoenix, AZ, February 6-10, 2013

Dr. Norali Pernalete, Dr. Cordelia

Ontiveros and Dr. Phil Rosenkrantz,

California State Polytechnic University, PomonaThomas Cossio, The Boeing Company

Cal Poly Pomona

cal poly pomona
Cal Poly Pomona

One of the largest engineering programs in California

One of 24 California State University campuses

Over 5000 engineering students, seven departments, 11 undergraduate degrees, 5 masters degrees

Highly ranked among non-research universities

Tournament of Roses Parade float co-built each year with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Cal Poly Pomona

outline of presentation 1
Outline of Presentation - 1
  • Senior project symposium used for assessment
  • Added Symposium Survey in 2008 to get higher level assessment data
  • First Year Results
  • Three year initiative for
    • Communications
    • Teamwork
    • Problem Solving

Cal Poly Pomona

outline of presentation 2
Outline of Presentation - 2
  • Second Year Results
  • Five Year Results and Trends
    • Overall
    • By department
    • By evaluator classification
  •  Conclusion and Future Plans:
    • What worked and what didn’t work
    • Future plans & Ideas
    • Broader Goals

Cal Poly Pomona

projects symposium day

Each Spring approximately 75 industry friends attend Project Symposium Day and evaluate over 200 senior projects.

  • Historically each program uses their own rubrics and processes for evaluation and assessment.
  • In 2008 the College of Engineering Assessment Committee conducted a post-symposium survey of industry representatives to assess seven outcomes from a college-wide perspective.
  • Projects Symposium URL:
Projects Symposium Day

Cal Poly Pomona

project symposium survey
Project Symposium Survey
  • On-line survey sent via email to industry representatives that attended the symposium
    • 43 responses in 2008
    • 44 responses in 2009
    • 48 responses in 2010
    • 50 responses in 2011
    • 32 responses in 2012
  • Approximately a 2/3 response

Cal Poly Pomona

qualities rated on the survey
Qualities Rated on the Survey

Knowledge - Ability to apply knowledge of math, science, and engineering

Conduct Experiments - Ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

Design a System - Ability to design a system to meet desired needs

Multidisciplinary Teams - Ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams

Solve Engineering Problems - Ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

Communications - Ability to communicate effectively

Use Engineering Tools - Ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice

ABET a-e, g, k

Cal Poly Pomona


Gap analysis showed three areas needing greatest improvement:

    • Communications
    • Ability to solve engineering problems
    • Multidisciplinary teamwork
  • College adopted a three year plan to address these three focus areas

Cal Poly Pomona

three year college plan
Annual Themes Adopted in Fall 2008

Three-Year College Plan

2008-2009: Communications

2009-2010: Multi-disciplinary Teamwork

2010-2011: Problem Solving

Cal Poly Pomona

2008 2009 communications
2008-2009: Communications
  • The ability to communicate orally, visually, and in written form
  • Includes critical thinking and comprehension skills as well as interpersonal communication skills
  • Leads up to the teamwork theme in 2009-2010.

Cal Poly Pomona

2009 2010 multi disciplinary teamwork
2009-2010: Multi-disciplinary Teamwork
  • The ability to perform as an effective team leader or team member in multidisciplinary situations.
  • This theme could align very well with the teamwork approaches found throughout the business world today and embodied in various quality management systems and strategies (e.g., Six Sigma Quality, AS 9100, ISO 9001:2004, etc.).
  • There are several “High Performance Team” models that could be considered and adopted under this theme.

Cal Poly Pomona

2010 2011 problem solving
2010-2011: Problem Solving
  • Almost every engineer will need problem solving skills.
  • These skills include:
    • Problem identification
    • Prioritizing
    • Root cause analysis
    • Problem diagnosis
    • Creative and innovative problem solving
    • Implementation

Cal Poly Pomona

communications program 2008 2009

“Professor for a Day” panel discussion plus class speakers.

  • Engineering Futures presentation on communications by ΤβΠNational Office
  • Liberal Arts and Science faculty attended Senior Project Presentations. STEM Committee formed to work on joint projects.
  • Three workshops for faculty led by invited experts from inside and outside the COE.
  • Pilot project requiring presenters to provide a one-page abstract usable for immediate assessment of writing skills .
  • Pilot project using English M.A. students to coach students preparing presentations.
Communications Program2008-2009

Cal Poly Pomona

second assessment cycle 2009

Same assessment process followed at Project Symposium Day in 2009

  • Program changes:
    • Added Showcase presentations
    • Change in makeup of industry visitors
  • Changes may confound results
Second Assessment Cycle 2009

Cal Poly Pomona


Results show consistency in responses from year-to-year

  • Same three areas most important:
    • Communications
    • Engineering problem solving
    • Multidisciplinary teamwork

Cal Poly Pomona


Averages dropped in four areas:

    • Ability to design experiments and analyze data
    • Ability to design a system
    • Communications
    • Ability to use engineering tools
  • Averages increased in three areas:
    • Knowledge
    • Multi-disciplinary teams
    • Problem solving

Communications dropped the most of all the outcomes assessed

Cal Poly Pomona


The gaps were smaller in all areas except:

    • Ability to Design Experiments and Analyze Data
    • Communications
    • Ability to use engineering tools
  • Three focus areas still have largest gap

Communications continues to be one of our areas in need of improvement

Cal Poly Pomona

q6 how willing would you be to refer someone to the cal poly pomona college of engineering
Q6-How willing would you be to refer someone to the Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering?

Cal Poly Pomona

question 6 implications
Question 6 Implications
  • 9-10: Promoters – (-12%) People who are selling your programs through word-of-mouth
  • 7-8: Passives – (+10%) People who are satisfied, but have reservations about recommending the program to others. Usually not satisfied with one or more aspects.
  • 1-6: Detractors – (+2%) People who are probably saying negative things about the program.

Cal Poly Pomona


Slight decrease in scores using the scale given

  • Written comments show strong support and confirm concerns about communications
  • Overall analysis
    • Communication skills are growing in importance
    • Valuable program but:
      • Did not reach enough students or faculty
      • Need to continue and expand

Cal Poly Pomona

2009 2010 program multi disciplinary teamwork
2009-2010 ProgramMulti-disciplinary Teamwork

Initial Observations

Team projects are used in many classes but very few teamwork skills are taught

Many students are learning negative teamwork skills as the result of being on dysfunctional teams and witnessing traits like slacking or dominating.

Lack of resources for instructors and students

Difficult to evaluate team member performance

FYE is not enough. More reinforcement at sophomore level.

Cal Poly Pomona

2009 2010 program multi disciplinary teamwork1
2009-2010 ProgramMulti-disciplinary Teamwork
  • Develop a program with the following goals:
    • Develop resources for faculty such as on-line and face-to-face workshop and on-line resources that can be used in class
    • Provide resources for students
    • Collaboration with other colleges to help our students in GE and support courses
  • Results:
    • Held one workshop for faculty
    • One very well attended presentation by alumni

Cal Poly Pomona

2010 2011 program problem solving
2010-2011 ProgramProblem Solving
  • Faculty were too busy preparing for ABET to put in proper effort on this program
  • Ultimate goal is to prepare resources for faculty and students
  • Held one very well attended panel discussion by alumni for students
  • Resources developed but deployed on a limited basis

Cal Poly Pomona

overall gap analysis
Overall Gap Analysis

Cal Poly Pomona

Question 6 – Five Year Results How willing would you be to refer someone to the Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering?

Cal Poly Pomona

interpretation of industrial manufacturing engineering results

Gap analysis was presented to the IME Department Industrial Advisory Council Members in November 2012.

  • They were asked if the result were valid. The unanimous response was that the results were loud and clear…
  • Communications and teamwork are important for industrial and manufacturing engineers and we need to do a better job.
Interpretation of Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering Results

Cal Poly Pomona

interpretation of aerospace engineering results

Aerospace Engineering Presentations were not traditional senior projects—rather were class design projects which probably confounded the results

  • No noticeable improvement over time
  • Communications had the largest overall gap
  • First three outcomes were large gaps compared to other majors
Interpretation of Aerospace Engineering Results

Cal Poly Pomona

interpretation of chemical engineering results

Problem Solving and Communications were the biggest gaps

  • All areas showed improvement over time
  • Probably some of the smaller gaps among all the departments
Interpretation of Chemical Engineering Results

Cal Poly Pomona

interpretation of civil engineering results

Based on Large Team Projects

  • Communications showed the biggest gap
  • 2011 was an anomaly compared to other years
  • No real trends in the gap results over time
  • Civil was very proactive in improving communications -- need to question effectiveness of efforts
Interpretation of Civil Engineering Results

Cal Poly Pomona

interpretation of electrical computer engineering results

Communications was the largest gap category

  • Program had some of the smallest gaps in the college
  • Mixed as to improving or regressing – two categories showed improvement over time and the rest were scattered
Interpretation of Electrical & Computer Engineering Results

Cal Poly Pomona

interpretation of mechanical engineering results

Communications the largest gap area

  • Some areas seem to have small gaps
  • 2012 showed gaps in areas that had been mostly even or free of gaps
Interpretation of Mechanical Engineering Results

Cal Poly Pomona

interpretation of results by position

Engineers were about half of the respondents overall and showed gaps in all areas with communications, problem solving and teamwork being the largest three

  • Supervisors were distinctly different than all other categories showing no gaps
  • Gaps became progressively larger as the position of the management evaluator went up in rank
  • Expectations vary based on perspective…this is worthy of interpretation by various stakeholders
Interpretation of Results by Position

Cal Poly Pomona

what worked

Obtained data that was otherwise being ignored

  • Data was useful at the college and department level
  • Some Assessment Coordinators used the feedback to guide department improvement efforts for outcomes
  • Communicated with the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences (CLASS) at a meaningful level
  • Showcase and Alumni Presentations were very effective
What Worked

Cal Poly Pomona

what didn t work

Results did not reach faculty as effectively as needed for buy-in and continuous improvement

  • Low participation among faculty in communications workshops
  • We did not follow through effectively with CLASS faculty to sustain interaction and effect changes
  • Most departments did not review results with Department Advisory Councils to interpret the results and plan for action
What Didn’t Work

Cal Poly Pomona

future plans
Future Plans
  • Continue assessment program.
  • Keep providing resources for three focus areas that will attract faculty buy-in. Expand reach of programs for both faculty and students with on-line resources that are reusable.
  • Tie into First Year Experience (FYE) programs
  • Strengthen collaboration with Liberal Arts and Science departments
  • Take a long view and be persistent

Cal Poly Pomona

ideas for improving communications program
Ideas for Improving Communications Program
  • Expand and increase seminars for faculty
  • Adopt a default “style guide” to use throughout the COE (Default guide would be used unless instructor or department specifies otherwise).
  • College-wide student competition judged by industry with prizes for the best presentation, written report, and research paper.
  • Expanded used of the Showcase in FYE courses.

Cal Poly Pomona

other ideas
Other Ideas

Choose a book about communications to use throughout the curriculum (at the college or department level). Use in engineering classes to help make it real to the students.

Cal Poly Pomona

broader goals
Broader Goals
  • Establish communications, teamwork, problem solving, and other “soft skill” outcomes threads across undergraduate curriculum:
    • Multi-year
    • Interdepartmental—across the college of engineering
    • Cross-disciplinary—across the campus
  • Requires collaboration with general education suppliers

Cal Poly Pomona