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Mary Robinson

The Education of Tomorrow's Engineers - Mary Robinson

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TSH B128

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The education of tomorrow’s engineer 

When I think back to how I was taught chemical engineering in the late 1990s, many of the methods that I was taught and books that were used were developed decades earlier.  At that time, graphical methods and analytical solutions were just starting to be replaced by numerical methods, but the computing power needed to use these methods on a large scale didn’t exist… yet.

Fast forward to 2023 and I look at the slide rule designed for an overhead projector, a gift from a retiring educator, and smile.  Today, we’re talking about how AIs like ChatGPT and self-driving cars are changing the world we know, and using a graphical solution for what could be solved with a few lines of code would be laughed out of any engineering office.

What skills was I taught that I will likely never use again and what skills do I turn to every day?  What skills will my students need to know to be successful engineers in tomorrow’s world?  What ways of knowing and understanding have been ignored by traditional science but will provide invaluable insights into solving complex problems with a network of inter-related components?  As engineering educators, our challenge is to prepare our students for an evolving, and I would argue more quickly changing, world.  I hope you will join me for this discussion.

About Mary

“Belonging” is at the heart of Mary Robinson’s portfolio at the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Engineering. A continuing lecturer, Waterloo alumnus (Chemical Engineering BASc ’02, MASc ’10), and Associate Dean of Outreach, Equity and Diversity (2021-present), Mary develops, collaborates, and implements strategies to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the Faculty, and to help build an environment where everyone – students, staff, and faculty – feels a true sense of belonging. Mary oversees initiatives related to historically excluded groups in the Faculty of Engineering including Indigenous and Black students, with a particular focus on advancing Indigenous ways of knowing and being. A long-time member of the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering (ONWiE), Mary also continues to energize the University of Waterloo’s work around women and gender-diversity in engineering. Additionally, Mary collaborates with Waterloo Engineering Outreach team to create and deliver award-winning programming to youth in Waterloo Region. Mary held the role of Associate Director First Year Engineering (2011-2021), where she supported first-year engineering students in their transition from high school to university and is known for her compassionate and supportive approach to help students adjust to the rigorous academic and social demands of university. Mary is a Fellow of the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA-ACÉG) and the 2018 recipient of the Ron Britton Engineering Education Vanguard Award.