Current trends that are shaping the future of engineering education
Education institutes are facing the challenge to create engineering programs that meet the requirements of combining practical elements along with a strong theoretical component. Professor Mark Cassidy, Dean of the Melbourne School of Engineering, agrees that today’s young engineers have more of a ‘problem-finding’ mindset which fuels an entrepreneurial attitude. This shift in mentality is exponentially different from engineering graduates years before. Professor Cassidy remarks that engineers used to purely want to work for major firms, whether that be in the public or private sector. However, today’s engineers are demanding a more entrepreneurial and digital twist to the education provided.
The engineering industry is expected to grow in varying ways, with the first being the digitisation of the sector. The industry and construction space in Australia has started to adopt many digital methods such as sensors, AR, VR drone usage and 3D scanning to name a few. These applications have the capacity to transform how projects are built and the technicalities involved. Furthermore, the construction industry is expected to adopt more features of the cloud. With cloud computing becoming more integrated into functionalities of the industry, it puts pressure on those going into engineering jobs to have relevant skills. As such, skills in API (application programming interface) and DevOps (development and software operations) become imperative. Additionally, virtual reality becomes important, as well. Through a combination of design graphics, wireless technology, headsets, HD projections and polarised glasses, these come together to create real-life experiences, which will soon become heavily integrated with infrastructure engineering.
Another aspect that compliments the rise in cloud computing and virtual reality in the engineering space is big data. Although big data isn’t a novel concept, software and algorithms currently in place to process complex data is currently inadequate. Therefore, the area is relatively new, yet important nonetheless and academic institutions need to be aware of how they should alter the curriculum in line with trends that are present within the industry. Robots and 3D printers will also make an entrance into the architecture space. In fact, India Today promises robots to enter into the design and construction industry within the near future, opening up the possibility of a collaborative work space.
Alongside these trends in the engineering industry, another important facet is adopting a positive mindset towards incorporating sustainability into architecture and infrastructure. Sustainable architecture is synonymous with being environmentally positive. With the need to be more economical with resource management and adopt a zero waste and reduced energy mentality, engineers can plan smart cities for the future. Adopting sustainable engineering practices is a matter of looking at the interactions between technical, ecological, social and economic systems that become affected as a result of infrastructure developments and investing in practices to minimise the negative impact.
It would be futile to discuss the rise of trends in engineering without bringing the topic of 5G. A city powered by 5G broadband is a city geared to take on engineering developments that incorporate fibre, machine-to-machine connectivity and smart city infrastructure. Alongside 5G, IoT (Internet of Things) will become a big part of how we live, eat, and sleep. Although the full power of IoT won’t be realised for a few more years, engineers should keep it in mind. In fact, according to Gartner, 20.4 billion devices will be connected across the world by the end of 2020. With data-deriving sensors placed across the network, industrial engineers will notice the rise of IoT within manufacturing and assembly line monitoring.
With 2020 and beyond seeing the rise of the fourth industrial revolution, human to machine (H2M) and machine to machine (M2M) relationships will come to fruition and engineers will need to adapt to the changing working atmosphere. Although there is some worry that certain jobs will become redundant with the introduction of more technologically based trends, it’s a matter of adapting to changing work environments and honing in on skills that will posit engineers for success in the coming years. With more powerful tools assisting engineers, it’s a matter of being future-ready and engineering schools are preparing for the shift.
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