Carney named AE3 Education Innovation Fellow

ECE News

Claire Hettinger, ECE ILLINOIS
10/14/2015

Story Highlights

  • Scott Carney hopes to encourage creative activities with his Education Innovation Fellow for the 2015-2016 year.
  • These fellows are charged with looking critically at the way engineering is taught at Illinois.
  • Carney will help in AE3 programs and will also build his own portfolio with projects and plans to focus on project-based learning.

 Engineering education involves a certain amount of background material and rote learning.

However, students should also be included in learning through creative activities and innovative thinking that moves the field forward. Professor P. Scott Carney hopes to build on this idea in his new position as a 2015-2016 Education Innovation Fellow (EIF) in the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education (AE3).

P. Scott Carney
P. Scott Carney

EIFs are charged with looking critically at the way engineering is taught at Illinois. Then, they will make suggestions or take action to make engineering education better. 

Carney is also affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and the Coordinated Science Laboratory. He’s head of the Optical Science Group. He will draw from this diverse background during his fellowship, he said. 

“I’m excited about the EIF program," he said. "I think there are some very interesting questions to ask about what we do, and how we do it, and, importantly, why we do it."

The fellowship position is partially up to Carney to define. He will help in AE3 programs, and will also build his own portfolio with projects to enhance education. He plans to focus on project-based learning and will try to develop resources for cross-course collaboration. 

He sees great opportunities in the college, he said, but some faculty and students are not aware of what others are doing. He hopes to increase awareness so everyone can take advantage of them.

Professor Scott Carney teaches ECE 398 on the methods of the engineering process.
Professor Scott Carney teaches ECE 398 on the methods of the engineering process.

“I don’t know if I need to shape how we teach in the college, so much as provide some help in breaking down barriers between useful resources,” he said, “and providing some connective tissue between the people who are doing interesting and innovative things.”

AE3 also supports a number of great people whose primary focus is engineering education research. “I am also really excited to be more in touch and involved with scholarly research in engineering education,” he said.   

For example, one of the great challenges in education is measuring outcomes. A challenge that intrigues him: deciding how they’re measured, Carney said.  

“When I get to the end of the semester in a traditional class and my students pass their semester exams, it’s nice and I’m happy for them,” he said. 

But this doesn’t necessarily mean the course has been a success, he said. 

“But when you get to the end of a semester and students have done something innovative and original and they’ve actually moved the field forward a little bit,” Carney said, “I think that that is an unambiguous success.  But how do we capture that success when we assess what we’ve done?”

Carney has a long list of ideas he’d like to pursue, but he admits he won’t have time to tackle everything. 

Whatever he accomplishes, he hopes it will be for the good of the students.

“I have this strong suspicion that mostly what I do as a member of the faculty is watch very smart students be very smart,” Carney said. “I’m good at that. I’m good at standing back and cheerleading for great students.”

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Julia Sullivan

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Todd Sweet

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tmsweet@illinois.edu