Michigan Engineering News

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New teaching awards highlight outstanding Michigan Engineering instructors

Awards recognize instructors who provide an exceptional engineering education experience for undergraduate students.

Several undergraduate Michigan Engineering instructors have received newly established awards from the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education (ADUE) in recognition of their outstanding teaching.

The awards include a student-nominated ENGR 100 Section of the Year Award, and individual and team awards recognizing undergraduate teaching efforts that have significantly advanced one or more of the four goal areas of the ADUE office: preeminent engineering education, experiential learning, academic innovation, and academic opportunities for all.

“The College has a long tradition of departments recognizing excellence in teaching,” said Joanna M. Millunchick, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “These awards acknowledge the exceptional contributions of instructors of first-year and other undergraduate education courses, particularly in light of COVID challenges and innovations.” 

The winners received their awards at the First Year Programs Luncheon on May 4, 2022.

ADUE Instructional Awards

Kenneth Alfano received the ADUE Instructor Award for his work in ENGR 100. Alfano is the lead technical faculty for a section of ENGR 100 that covers a range of general engineering design skills. This has always included Computer-Aided Design (CAD), but Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) tends to have a learning curve that has not historically fit well into ENGR 100. 

Recently, with the help of a grant from the ADUE office, Alfano incorporated new Ansys engineering simulation software into the course to allow students to perform meaningful CAE simulation early in their education. He has made his teaching materials available to other instructors through an Ansys Academic case study.

The ENGR 101 team of Laura Alford, James Juett, and Laura Burdick received the ADUE Instructional Team Award. During the pandemic, they switched to the HyFlex model of teaching, which combines in-person and online learning to meet the needs of students across the world. The team is working with the Foundational Course Initiative in the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) to transform this pivotal engineering course into a more engaging, equitable, and inclusive learning experience.

Researchers bending over and looking at their buoyancy research
Laura Alford (right) teaches a lab about buoyancy at an Xplore Engineering camp. Photo: Joseph Xu/Michigan Engineering

eNGR 100 Section of the Year Award

ENGR 100 is a student’s first taste of what it is to be a practicing engineer. The course is designed to simulate a real-world engineering environment where teamwork, communication, and creativity are the keys to success.

“The ENGR 100 Section of the Year award highlights the excellence of our instructional teams to create engaging, hands-on learning experiences that teach first-year students engineering, communication, and interpersonal skills,” said Rachael Schmedlen, Director of Academic Programs for ADUE. “Because the instructors are nominated by the students themselves, the awards demonstrate the impact the winners have had on future engineers.”

This year’s ENGR 100 Section of the Year Award went to the ENGR 100-700 (Introduction to Aerospace Engineering) instructional team of Pete Washabaugh, Christian Casper, Yousif Taher and Christopher Clyne. The course teaches students the basics in engineering required to design, simulate, fabricate, test, code and ultimately fly a hovercraft by the end of the course.

Pete Washabaugh standing in a classroom showing off lab equipment
Pete Washabaugh talks about the AERO 100 course during a tour as part of the AERO Centennial Celebration in the FXB Building on September 18, 2014. Photo: Joseph Xu/Michigan Engineering

A student who nominated the group for this award noted that the course’s “very entertaining, engaging, yet informative lectures showed that they put a lot of time and devotion into this class. They were constantly pushing and challenging students to be their best while still acknowledging everyone is a beginner.”

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Jessica Petras

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