|Action||Comprehensive Revision of the Licensure Regulations for School Personnel|
|Comment Period||Ends 11/6/2015|
Engineering Endorsement / Teaching
To: Virginia Board of Education
From: Albert L. DiMarcantonnio
113 Broadwater, Williamsburg, VA 23188
30 September 2015
Subject: Proposed Engineering Endorsement for Teachers
I urge your support for the proposed ‘engineering endorsement’ requirement for high school teacher qualifications and certification. The proposal addresses the key point differentiating engineering from technology and applying rigorous math and science disciplines that are essential to understanding, practicing and teaching engineering with the competency and passion that will hopefully make a positive difference in our next generation of engineering professionals.
My opinion herein is personal and is based on a forty-year career in civil government, the military and private industry in programmatic, operational and technological/engineering roles as a practitioner, manager and executive. I took my technical education in Aerospace Technology at the Academy of Aeronautics where I also earned an FAA Aircraft and Power plant Mechanic License. At Columbia University I received a B.A. in Government. I also attended the U.S. Naval War College, Command and Staff program. A Naval Aviator, I have over 3000 flight hours in jet and prop aircraft and served as Airframes Branch Officer and Aircraft Division Officer aboard aircraft carriers and ashore. I have a Commercial Pilot license and am qualified in the DC-8 aircraft. I worked as a systems engineer for Pacer Systems, Inc. developing the multi-media training curriculum for the SD-330 commercial aircraft, was technical advisor for the P3C Orion avionics upgrade, and managed the training and installation of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Data Interpretation and Analysis Center for the Canadian Forces. In an active Reserve capacity I was Commanding Officer of several space units of national importance and the architect and first Director of the Naval Space Reserve Program. For GE, I was manager for C3I programs involving imagery sensing and space communications projects and was book manager and on-orbit electrical systems analyst for the Defense Satellite Communications System. At GTE I was manager of Imagery and Intelligence Systems and later, manager of commercial enterprises building a business base in Africa. For NASA, I served as Business Manager and as Deputy Director of the International Space Station Program. Detailed to DoD I was Deputy Undersecretary for Space programs, Program Executive for the congressional interest Pacific Disaster Center and representative to the Vice President’s Global Disaster Information Network initiative. I later served at the National Reconnaissance Office. I am currently the Director of Special Programs at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. In 2014 I was publically awarded for my support to STEM education by the Governor’s School for Science and Technology.
Technology is not engineering. I have worked in both roles as an operator, manager and executive for aircraft, space craft, communications and ground based sensor systems and platforms. Technology involves the assembly, diagnostics and maintenance and repair of hardware and software systems. Engineering involves innovation, invention and creativity in the conceptualization, analysis, design, test and systems integration of hardware, software systems and operational processes. Engineering requires a working understand and applications facility of specialized systems and familiarity of various adjacent engineering disciplines. This understanding is based on the practical knowledge of math and science academic tools that allow for complex thought and cost effective and efficient design and test protocols that would not be readily intuitively obvious. Engineering involves coming to know what you don’t know and finding solutions to unchartered problems and many times, building previously unimagined capabilities through the final design process. A competent engineer has working knowledge of a broad range of engineering disciplines in addition to his/her specialty. Mechanics, electrics, civil, chemical, materials, computer and others. These are often applied to the development of aerospace, automotive, infrastructure, naval, information and other platforms. Engineering is 80% intellectual, 10 % manual, and 10% inspirational. Technology is 15% mental, 80% manual and 5% inspirational. One may be trained to be a technologist but one must be educated to be an engineer. Technology is working with things that exist and are documented and known in their structure and operation. Engineering is imagining things that do not exist, designing them and interfacing them to practical applications. The design process itself requires complex critical analysis, an imaginative problem solution set, real or simulation protocols, and production and operation documentation. Education is gotten through classical academics in the hard engineering, science and math disciplines and practical internships and industry experience. Engineering must be precise, sustainable, and mission and environmentally survivable. A casual understanding or application of the tools of engineering quite often leads to disaster and a bad day for the technologist, manager, policy maker, executive, and public and private user of the engineering equipment. Engineering requires attention to detail and does not lend itself to generalization. An engineer makes a very long term and challenging commitment to academics and practice that relies heavily on truly quality based teaching in the early years. Many people live in the world that others build. Engineers are builders and responsible for raising the standard of living to the previously imaginable standards enjoyed today.
Teaching engineering is not a certification that should be arbitrarily conferred on the basis of politics, tenure or casually related skills lest the student body be disadvantaged. Teachers as well as students must be accountable to a regents-like certification process by an independent agency lest we end up with paper certifications with no performance improvement in our next generation of engineers and abandon the advantages of good engineering to other nations. The proposed endorsement should be specified and applied in the most effective letter and spirit to serve the students. The endorsement should not be watered down to accommodate a jobs program but to uplift those talented teachers who would rise to the hard work of teaching as a national mission and a calling. The current population of qualifiable teachers should be allowed sabbaticals to develop meaningful experience and be appropriately compensated separate from their contemporaries based on the academic difficulties, teaching challenges and engineering leadership qualities required to be a STEM teaching professional. The proposed engineering endorsement is a step in the direction of building a student body with a competency, imagination and passion for engineering. Yet, this will happen only if they are exposed, taught and mentored by those with the same competency, imagination and passion.