Value of a U.S. Degree in Engineering Or Science
Monday, April 12, 2010 at 06:46 AM EDT
In the past couple of weeks, we've put about 70 people through helicopter ground school (outline of topics), followed by a 25-question multiple choice exam. The goals of the ground school include developing a student's understanding of qualitative physics such as the Bernoulli effect (through conservation of energy), of basic aerodynamics (no equations), and of the practical requirements that lead to the helicopter being constructed the way it is (e.g., Why is there a tail rotor?). The class is conducted as a discussion around a conference table with about one third of the time devoted to students answering questions from the teacher (me so far!). Some reading is assigned prior to the class, but mostly the oral questions can be answered based on material presented in the class and with commonsense physics reasoning.
What has surprised me the most is the lack of predictive value of a bachelor's degree in science or engineering from an American university. One customer showed up wearing a Boston University Engineering sweatshirt, confirmed that a bachelor's degree in engineering ($150,000?) had been obtained two years ago, and proceeded to score 6/25 correct on the exam (the all-time low score and worse than picking answers at random).
People who've done the best in the class and on the exam:
Some Americans who held bachelor's degrees in science/tech did reasonably well, but no better than those who'd majored in Art.
This article originally appeared on Philip Greenspun's Weblog.