Front and Center
Engineering professor Jennifer Brand is teaching an honors course that explores engineering from a historical perspective.
Students in UHON 395: Fulcrums and Flights of Fantasy learn how advances in engineering have affected the arts, human relationships, world affairs and religion. Brand teaches the class with Karen Lyons, associate professor of English and women’s and gender studies.
The three-credit class is open to sophomore, junior and senior students in the honors program. Eleven students are enrolled this semester.
Brand said by the end of the course, students should understand that developments in technology dramatically change how society functions. “There are no divisions between technology, humanities, the arts, and especially history,” Brand said. “You can’t take anything as one isolated incident. They’re all interconnected.”
Brand and Lyons also want students to consider the ethics of technology.
The class discusses innovations created during the Power and Energy Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the Computer Revolution. Students listen to presentations from guest speakers and arrange field trips at historical landmarks such as the State Capitol.
Although engineering students comprise half the class, honors students in any major may take the course. Lyons said diversity in a course such as UHON 395 is crucial because it exposes students to new ideas and viewpoints.
“It’s designed to join disciplines that are not commonly pulled together,” said Lyons, who also is the associate director of the University Honors Program.
Senior Amy Dimick is one of the engineering students. “A lot of our classes are technology based, and this brings humanities into our education. It’s good to get a perspective on others’ perceptions of engineering,” said Dimick, a biological systems engineering major.
Students complete two individual projects and one group project. Projects have covered topics such as how the interstate system has affected society, how ship technology changed how wars are fought and the development of Technicolor.
Brand and Lyons said the projects help students sharpen their research and presentation skills.
“It challenges engineers to be creative and learn how to talk to laypeople about things they’re passionate about,” Brand said.