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New $1-Million NSERC Chair in Design Engineering will make way for a new Centre for Professional Practice and Engineering Education

April 20, 2012 — 

Douglas Ruth

The University of Manitoba will soon launch an exciting new approach to educating engineers so they meet the ever-changing demands of the technologically driven world.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has awarded a new Chair in Design Engineering to Douglas Ruth, the newly appointed associate dean (design education). Ruth is both a graduate of the engineering faculty at the University of Manitoba, holding a BSc in mechanical engineering, and has also served as dean of the faculty for 11 years.

“Dr. Ruth’s strong record of experience will truly take University of Manitoba’s unique program to the next level,” said Suzanne Fortier, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). “His vision to create unique courses that expose students to new developments and to broaden collaboration with industrial partners will create new research and training opportunities for students in this exciting field.”

The activities of the Ruth’s chair begin April 1, 2012, with $1 million in funding from NSERC over the next five years.

“We will be working toward four main objectives,” says Ruth. “Those being: discovery-based learning in all preliminary year engineering science courses, mechanisms to expand design offerings throughout the curriculum, an inter-departmental capstone project, and the establishment of the Centre for Professional Practice and Engineering Education.”

This new centre, headed by Ruth, will address the need for engineers to acquire professional expertise in areas such as law and contracts, economics and project management, and communications and marketing.

Dean Jonathan Beddoes is particularly pleased the Centre will focus on helping engineering students understand their future role as a professional in society. “Engineers carry a great deal of social responsibility,” says Beddoes. “The Centre for Professional Practice and Engineering Education will ensure our students are taught the skills necessary not only to understand this but to embrace their roles as professionals and leaders.”

Malcolm SymondsThe new Centre will be responsible for all non-departmental professional skills training courses such as Engineering Economics, Law, and Technology and Society. In this role, it will bring consistency and focus to the professional skills training that all engineering students must undertake. The Faculty’s Engineer-in-Residence program, the first of its kind in Canada, will continue to grow as part of the Centre and continue to be a strong link between the Faculty of Engineering and the industry of engineering. “Design education is a two way effort,” says Mr. Malcolm Symonds, Canada’s first Engineer-in-Residence. “The new Centre will help establish and enhance linkages with industry, and through these interactions improve our ability to develop design ready engineers.”

“I congratulate Doug Ruth and the Faculty of Engineering on receiving this highly competitive chair,” said Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) at the University of Manitoba. “Engineering design plays an integral role in every aspect of our civilization from mobile phones to the packaging of the food we eat.”

The goal of the NSERC Chairs in Design Engineering program is to expand the level and quality of design engineering education in Canada. Ruth has opted for an innovative approach for the structure of his new chair.

Ron BrittonThe previous University of Manitoba Chair in Design Engineering (held by Ron Britton from 2001 to 2011) established the Design Group in the Faculty of Engineering, the promotion of engineering design concepts through departmental courses, the restructuring of the delivery of technical communications throughout the faculty, and the recruitment of Engineers-in-Residence (EiR) as active partners in the delivery of design engineering courses. The Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification Program (IEEQ) was also established as a result of Britton’s Chair; this program resulted in permanent funding for six ‘design professors’ with significant industry design credentials, who teach new design-based courses at the upper years in specific engineering practice areas.

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