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Webinar series 2: ENGINEERING, EDUCATION & THE PANDEMIC: Where is the World Headed

Posted on July 23, 2020

Post Covid Prospects in Engineering and Education. Engineering, Education and the Pandemic: Where is the World Headed?

Advanced College of Engineering and Management (acem) hosted a webinar in partnership with the U.S. Embassy, Kathmandu Nepal, on “Post Covid Prospects in Engineering and Education. Engineering, Education and the Pandemic: Where is the World Headed?” on July 22, 2020. 
Dr. Henri P. Gavin, Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Duke University, USA and Dr. Bevlee Watford, Professor of Engineering Education in the College at Virginia Tech, USA, were the speakers in the webinar, which was moderated by Mr. Karl Rogers, Cultural Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy, Kathmandu, Nepal. The webinar covered the trends in education, engineering and discussions on the influence the current global crisis might have on both.

One of the main objectives of this webinar was to guide prospective students who dream to be the engineers of the future and all existing students of engineering about the prospects in the area during and after this pandemic. 
Other objectives were to discussion how COVID has shifted the nature of network, the importance of studying engineering now, how solutions are being planned for future classes, emerging trends in engineering due to COVID and why universities need to be more inclusive.  

Mr. Ramesh Silwal, Chairman, acem and President of HISSAN, talked about the current situation of COVID 19, and how the gap between haves and have-nots will increase due to COVID in his opening remarks. He also highlighted on following points:

 - How COVID will enhance the proactiveness and problem solving capacity of people.
- Boom in engineering sectors in Nepal.
- Current scenario of world: 1.72 billion students affected worldwide.
- Impact of COVID on students.
- Students enrollment might decrease.
- Paying capacity of parents will also decrease.
- Sharpen our working skill.
- Take this challenge as a door to new opportunities.
- Positive aspects: digitalization, local supply increase, survival mode on.
- Negative aspects: stress, anxiety, suicide, unemployment, deprivation from         quality education.
- Recognize future areas for growth like health sector, virology, robotics, chemical engineering. 

Dr. Bevlee Watford spoke about how international students have plummeted due to COVID as embassies are closed, visas are not issued. Engineering applies to everything technical hence it is an appropriate field to follow, she explained and encouraged students to pursue engineering. She also shared how Virginia Tech has been supporting students and enabling them to be successful. She spoke on following points:
  • Engineering is an appropriate field to follow.
  • In Virginia Tech, students and faculty collaborated to create shields, ventilator parts.
  • Research project plans like webinar for freshman which has increased capacity to accommodate more students, about 700.
  • Emerging trends in engineering post COVID.
  • Planning for team based projects like redesigning rest areas in highways for long distance travelers post COVID as less people are opting for flying.
  • Need for more inclusiveness as far as students of color are concerned.
  • Need to bring in more diverse perspective.
  • More diversity brings more experiences together.
  • The lack of diversity is loss of value.
  • Getting diversity of students is a challenge.
  • Virginia Tech is encouraging students to stay home and take online classes.

Dr. Gavin said that engineering is a problem solving field. He added that best decisions can lead to bad outcome but that can teach us problem solving. He also talked about the value of inclusion and how talent has no race, no gender and is not to certain group of people. Excluding people is loss of ideas he said, as far as bringing students from diverse parts of the world is concerned. He shared his memories of when he had visited Nepal and worked with students here. He also talked about the following points:
  • Department of Civil and Environmental Duke University has large master’s program which brings big number of international students.
  • Students worked in 3D printers during first week of lockdown.
  • There is challenge in including students of color.
  • Students’ motivation and entrepreneurship is very important.
  •  Engineering helps in making practical decisions.
  • Importance of working with whatever you got to get something significant done.
  • Changing teaching modality by reconfiguring classroom like enabling classes for video recording.
  • Reducing students in dorm so that there is safe distancing among them.
  • Code of conduct must be made clear to everyone.
  • Trust among teachers, students and staff is essential.
  • With emerging trends in engineering due to COVID, there is more importance for new type of thinking.
  • Focus on improving public health and how we can adapt to changing times.
  • Every year so many disasters happen, COVID has turned out to be worse. Hence we have to be disaster oriented.
  • Learning new things. Until now we didn’t know social distancing, now we do.
  • Learning new technology to adapt like Zoom.
  • Talent has no race, no gender and is not limited to certain group of people.
  • Learning and developing new technology is not a challenge, the real challenge is how we use it for our best.
  • Best solutions are the ones that fit in the given context.
  • Students are not bound to be in the campus now. Campus is thinking about social isolation in the dorm.
  • Most ECA and CCA not starting until September.
  • Dealing with issues as they come up.

Mr. Kapil Dev Regmi, Director, acem, thanked the speakers and the participants of the webinar on behalf of acem. He said partnering with the US Embassy was great learning opportunity and hoped for future collaborations too.  He also added that he hopes this program will help students to get into engineering. He also talked about:

-           New way of thinking due to pandemic.
-          Survival of the fittest has come true now.
-          This webinar as a great learning opportunity.
-           Adapt to the change as change is inevitable. 
-           Plan for more webinars in global context.