Writing Assignments for an Internship Course

Article excerpt

Presented at the 2006 ASABE Annual International Meeting, Portland, Ore., July 9-12, 2006. ASAB Paper No. 06068023

The importance and value of internship coursework completed as an integral part of engineering, engineering technology, and applied science curricula have long been recognized and documented. This has been reconfirmed by several recent studies published in the literature, examples of which follow. Boggs, Williams, Mattila, Kennedy, and Dewey (2004) discussed the many advantages to students and employers of the required internship course in the pavement option of the civil engineering major at Michigan Technological University. Rompelman and De Vrie (2002) evaluated the practical training (internship) requirement in the M.S. program in electrical engineering at Delft University of Technology and concluded that the predefined objectives of the course were being met to a large extent. Zissman (2005) interviewed both students and employers who participated in the Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program at Oregon State University and included in her article several positive testimonials from both groups concerning the two required internship experiences. Miller, Tarpley, Miller, Harrison, and Beard (2004) listed "develop and encourage awareness and interests through occupational experiences in agricultural careers" (p. 3) as one of several objectives supporting the stated goals of the Agricultural Systems Technology program in their case study of this program offered at Utah State University. The authors also indicated that a majority of the students in this program complete internships.

The importance and need of good communication skills for the success of graduates in engineering, engineering technology, and applied science programs have also long been recognized and documented along with evidence that graduates need improvement in their ability to communicate. This has also been reconfirmed by several recent studies published in the literature, examples of which follow. The Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (2005) included "an ability to communicate effectively" in the list of program outcomes (statements) that describe what students are expected to know and be able to do by the time of graduation in all three of the following publications: the Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs: 2006-2007 (p. 2), the Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Technology Programs: 2006-2007 (p. 5), and the Criteria for Accrediting Applied Science Programs: 2006-2007 (p. 1). Bohnhoff, Gunasekaran, Williams, and Rosentrater (2004) discussed the results of an industry focus group asked to rate (high, medium, or low) the importance of the eleven ABET outcomes required for engineering programs and how satisfied they were with the skills of recent graduates in Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in each of the areas. The authors concluded that communication was ranked as extremely important and that the participants were somewhat dissatisfied with the graduates' ability to effectively communicate. A report by an American Society of Civil Engineers task force (2001) included "poor communications skills" (p.16) in a list of areas in which entry-level and experienced engineers are perceived to be inadequate.

Many engineering department faculty who recognize the importance of good communications skills for graduates also realize that the responsibility of helping students develop essential communication skills can not be left solely to colleagues in English departments who teach basic writing and speech courses. Wells and Crofcheck (2005) reported that one of the outcomes for the engineering program in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Kentucky is "graduates must demonstrate effective interpersonal, formal, and technical communications skills whether oral or written" (p. 7) and listed the assessment instrument, goal, and standard for this educational outcome in terms of student performance in communication assignments in three advanced engineering courses. …