Universities are invigorating the engineering education model by creating innovative programs that will help solve tomorrow’s tech problems.

10 Innovative Engineering Institutes

May 1, 2020

by Carlos M. Gonzalez

Engineering is a major that is continuously evolving. As society changes and becomes more interconnected, so too should the educational model for all future engineering students. To meet the demand of a changing world, educational institutions are implementing new instructional models that can rise to the changes occurring today and tomorrow.  
 
Engineering programs have started to invest heavily in educating and training students in the technologies that will disrupt the industry. Innovations such as the Internet of Things, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and robotics, are pushing engineers to be more open-minded with their design process. How can we design sustainable products? How will this part impact society? What type of other science disciplines will be needed to have these parts succeed? What does the global impact look like as new technologies emerge? These are all the questions engineers need to answer today – they can no longer work in a bubble.
 
Educational institutions are implementing new programs and mission statements that will expand their educational models beyond the classroom. These programs foster collaboration not just between engineering departments, such as electromechanical engineering, but also how engineers can collaborate with architects, historians, and economists. The programs are also focusing on design innovation for global development and the benefit of society. These programs also understand the need to expand on STEM opportunities for young engineers and to build a diverse workforce, one which reflects the world in which these technologies will exist.
 
The schools chosen on our list are pushing innovation by exposing engineering students to a global way of thinking, to research opportunities that are looking into the future of technology, and working across disciplines. All the schools on our list have graced multiple top best schools list, including U.S. News, Forbes, College Rankings, and many others. By no means is this a definitive list, as schools across the country are all creating new programs and initiatives to help bolster the educational institution of engineering, but instead, this list reflects the multidiscipline innovation required to change the future of engineering education.
 
What does the future of engineering education look like? Let’s explore some of the unique program offerings available to today’s engineers, ranging from research opportunities, global collaboration, diversity inclusion programs, entrepreneurship education, and STEM mentoring.
 

Georgia Institute of Technology


Photo: Georgia Tech
 

Engineers have amazing ideas. Those ideas need to be fostered into fully developed products. At Georgia Institute of Technology, the Create-X entrepreneurship program lets engineers take their ideas from a concept to a fully marketable product, whether they are an incoming freshman, undergrad, graduate student, or Ph.D. student.
 
Dr. Raghupathy Sivakumar is the founding director of Create-X and the Wayne J. Holman Chair Professor, ECE. The Create-X program was launched seven years ago and has helped launch more than 100 companies, all founded by Georgia Tech Students.
 
The program is broken into three categories: Learn, Make, and Launch. The Learn category offers a Startup Lab course that teaches evidence-based entrepreneurship, covering ideation, teaming up with others, customer discovery, and successful business models. At the Make stage, engineers receive faculty mentors, guidance, and seed funding to build prototypes. They can use university resources to create their ideas. Finally, at the Launch stage, students submit their final designs for a chance to receive a $4,000 grant and $30,000 in services to turn their prototype idea into a company.
 
Create-X has helped launch several companies, including Crescento, an AI-powered interactive music trainer that offers focused and immediate feedback practice sessions. Crescento has been recently acquired by Ultimate Guitar, the world’s largest guitar community. Create-X has also launched Ethos Medical, a needle guidance system to help perform accurate lumbar punctures. Ethos recently received a $225,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
 

Clemson University

 
Photo: Clemson University


The idea of uniting different engineering and science disciplines is an increasing trend – well suited for today’s interconnected world. ClemsonForward is the university’s strategy to unite different science foundations to help spread knowledge for innovation that impacts society. The plan is built on four key foundations: research, engagement, academic core, and living.  
 
  • Goal One establish leadership through education. It offers programs like EMAG!NE, teaching middle and high school students technical skills, and RiSE, an engineering-based residential community for incoming freshmen.
  • Goal Two is to bring innovation to emerging tech areas. Examples of the research done at Clemson are fuel-saving carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite car doors and tissue regeneration to treat aneurysms and heart valves.
  • Goal Three is to leverage innovation into economic development. Clemson has four innovation campuses that serve as idea factories to create new knowledge that is economically sustainable. The Clemson University Restoration Institute, for example, is one of the world’s most advanced wind turbine drivetrain testing facilities.
  • Goal Four inspires leadership, partnership, engagement locally, and abroad. Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries program, for example, has worked with local communities in Haiti to develop sustainable solutions to improve their quality of life.
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Stanford University


Photo: Stanford

 
Engineers are needed everywhere. A global experience of innovation in other countries can expose a student to a different mode of thinking. Stanford University embraces this idea via its Global Engineering Program (GEP).
 
Stanford offers all students, engineers, and non-engineers alike to achieve a higher global perspective. The GEP was founded in 2007 when it partnered with Tsinghua University in China. Since then, it has established partnerships with India as well. The program is available for all, and for non-engineers, Stanford offers fundamental engineering courses to help students complete engineering tasks abroad. GEP has sent over 200 engineering students overseas and plans to expand its opportunities in the future.
 

Princeton University

 
Photo: Princeton


By 2050 almost 70 percent of the population will live in urban regions. Princeton Engineering has launched the Metropolis Project to create a future ecosystem of sustainability. The program unites different engineering and science disciplines, including architecture, economics, history, and natural sciences to develop advance systems that advance the infrastructure of an area while accounting for its impact on the metropolitan. These advance systems include sensors, cyber-physical systems, and new infrastructure that is resilient to future climate change.
 
The program recently released a 170-page report, in association with the National Science Foundation and the Princeton Environmental Institute, that details the existing climate conditions and sea-level trends of Jamaica Bay, NY. The report lists how to protect the bay’s infrastructure and ecology. The work is part of the Structures of Coastal Resilience initiative, which was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and supported by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

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Carnegie Mellon

 
Photo: Carnegie Mellon


Partnering with industry leaders helps universities develop engineers ready for the workforce. Carnegie Mellon has several joint ventures with leading innovative companies to foster innovation.
 
The Carnegie Bosch Institute (CBI) is an alliance between Carnegie Melon and the Bosch Group, a technology and services global supplier based out of Stuttgart, Germany. The Bosch Group specializes in mobile solutions, industrial tech, consumer goods, and building infrastructure.
 
The CBI was established in 1990 and has aligned its research with growing areas in the global industry. Bosch provides industrial insight and expertise to assist the university in its research.
 
Carnegie Mellon has also partnered with ANSYS and has recently announced the opening of the new ANSYS Hall on campus. The engineers will have complete access to the ANSYS solution software portfolio of simulation tools. Simulation tools are becoming more routine in the design process, accelerating prototypes, and time to market. The software tools prepare the engineering students with the future skills they need to design in the industry.
 
These are only some of the university partners. Others include NASA, Argonne National Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, and Siemens.
 

University of Michigan

 
Photo: University of Michigan


University of Michigan’s strategic plan focuses on the global and technical challenges that will face us in the 21st century. Their research focuses on three pillars of excellence that will serve the common good: research, education, and culture.
 
To help develop these pillars, the university is home to several labs that push innovation. The UM3D Lab provides engineering students with professional-level computer modeling and visualization of multidimensional environments. These tools include rapid prototyping, 3D scanning, motion capture, and virtual reality.
 
The Ford Battery Lab is a collaboration between the university, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the Ford Motor Company. The lab’s purpose is to speed up the development of new battery technologies. It specializes in testing and scaling prototypes quickly, and any batteries from coin cells to vehicles-scale units can be tested and constructed.
 
Pushing the innovation of the automotive industry further, MCity is an urban and suburban test environment lab that simulates complex scenarios for text vehicles. MCity has been at the forefront for the testing of automated and connected cars. The test site features a variety of different roads, traffic control devices, and pedestrian paths.
 
Lastly, the Functional and In-Vivo MRI labs are available to the bioengineers at University of Michigan. At these labs, the students can use the digital MRI scans of living tissue of both animals and humans to further their biomedical research. The lab features two 3-Tesla MRI scanners, which can scan an entire body in gradients of 50 mT/m amplitude. They also offer volume reconstruction for real-time image generation.  
 

Drexel University

 
Photo: Drexel University


Internships and cooperative programs are staples of the educational model abroad, especially in countries such as Germany. In the U.S., a few educational institutions excel in job experience education. Drexel University is well-known for the cooperative program and is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
 
Since most majors require a co-op to graduate, 99 percent of the students from the College of Engineering fulfill at least one co-op during their undergrad years. Students in the co-op program earn a median salary of $720 a week, and students with at least three co-op experiences within their undergrad program average a starting salary of $62,685.
 
The co-op programs teach students to balance classroom theory with hands-on experience. The co-op programs partner with employers to sponsor students. The companies include Boeing, OSIsoft Software, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, IBM, and Volvo. The co-ops are six months in length, alternating between the classroom and their time in the field.
 
To help students understand the global market, Drexel has expanded the co-op program to other countries. The international co-ops offer students to develop relevant cross-cultural skills as well as a better understanding of the global engineering economy.

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Cornell University

 
Photo: Cornell


Diversity is a continuing struggle in engineering. As an industry and education institution historically by white-males, universities are launching diversity initiatives to encourage women and minorities to pursue engineering.
 
Cornell University this past year was listed as one of the top STEM schools for women by Forbes magazine. In their undergraduate enrollment this past year, of the 3,239 students enrolled, they have an even split of male to female students.
 
Cornell’s Diversity Programs in Engineering (DPE) offers educational models to pre-college, undergrad, and graduate students the opportunities to participate in diverse learning. They are designed to help recruit and retain students from all different types of backgrounds, especially those from historically underserved communities.
 
DPE’s mission is to impact a positive cultural change, collaborate with industry, community, and educational partners to advance inclusion and engagement, and inspire the community to challenge each other and foster participation in engineering.
 
Some of the offers from DPE are research opportunities such as the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Research Experience for Undergraduates (LSAMP REU) and the Engineering Summer Math Institute (ESMI), that offers a summer session math course and a research opportunity.
 

The University of Texas at Austin

 
Photo: The University of Texas at Austin


Part of the Cockrell School of Engineering, the Texas Inventionworks lab, is designed for engineers to foster innovation with a curriculum lab for professors, access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, research partnerships, and engagement with industry.
 
The main facility is located in the National Instruments Student Project Center inside the Engineering Education and Research Center and is available to any engineering student or lab member.
 
The centerpiece of the building, the NI Student Project Center, offers students 23,000 square feet of maker spaces catered towards design. The area is broken into different rooms, each highlighting a different creative focus. The Digital Fabrication lab is for 3D Printing, CNC milling, laser cutters, and other craft tools. The Robotics and Automation room is for automated machine development, and for testing man-machine interaction and machine learning software. Lastly, the Additive Manufacturing lab caters towards rapid prototyping and custom parts. The whole space is a dream for a maker.
 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 
Photo: MIT


As a university with over 40 centers, institutes, and laboratories, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the leading research engineering schools. The research labs at MIT cover a wide range of tech disciplines.
  • The Robust Robotics Group focuses on unmanned aerial vehicles that fly without GPS or mapping
  • The System Architecture Lab that helps create better infrastructure systems through early technical analysis.
  • The Microsystems Technology Lab is dedicated to nanoscale science to help solve problems in communications, computation, energy, health, and the environment.
This has placed MIT as one of the top research schools in the country.  
 
Along with research, MIT has created STEM education programs to develop a new generation of inventors. The Lemelson-MIT Program is for high school students, educators, and mentors to receive funding to invent technological solutions to solve real-world problems. The students and educators are organized into InvenTeams, and they can receive up to $10,000. The teams are comprised of students all over the country and available for K-12 educators.
 
Along with fostering STEM education, MIT offers free continuing education for engineering professionals. The MIT OpenCourseWare is publicly available and provides high-quality teaching and learning materials. Engineers can choose between 2,450 MIT on-campus courses to learn new skills to further their careers.

Carlos M. González is special projects manager.

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