posted by: fraycroft
A couple years ago, my cousin Josh graduated from ND with a degree in aerospace engineering. Now, he is a successful engineer at GE. Whenever we meet, we talk about what each of us is doing and how work is going. I am sure that neither of us fully understands exactly what the other is doing (this is probably more the case with me… Josh will often talk about his work with jet engines and I’m just happy those hunks of metal are able to get off the ground). However, I was surprised to learn that the majority of his first year at GE was spent doing project based learning work. Josh and a team of other new GE engineers spent most of their first year solving aerospace projects that had already been solved. I was surprised by this, because I couldn’t believe that GE would spend a significant amount of money paying employees to work on projects that didn’t really need any work. The point of this excercise, of course, was to expose the new GE engineers to the process of solving engineering problems in the workplace. Although Josh may have learned everything he needed to know about the technical aspects of aerospace engineering while at ND, he was not necessarily prepared for solving a real world aerospace project at GE. I think Josh’s experience at GE is a great testament to the importance of project based learning. In addition to answering questions in a real world example, Josh and the other engineers needed to work together in a group and learn to communicate with one another and present their findings effectively. Project based learning in an educational environment can prepare students for the real world, not only in terms of solving difficult questions, but also by providing a means of learning to work together effectively.