Rapid, major advances over the past 20 years in computing capability and the ability to manage information have significantly affected the work of the practicing petroleum engineer. To document the effects of these changes in the workplace, we have conducted a survey of how engineers use computers on the job. Using the results of this survey, we make recommendations concerning the ways in which undergraduate engineering programs should approach computers and computing in the curriculum. The paper also includes a general discussion of why and how computers should be included in undergraduate programs.
One reason computer use should be included in the curriculum is to prepare students better for the workplace. Despite the wealth of evidence that indicates engineers use computers on the job, general information about the actual ways in which computers are used is not available. The survey described in this paper provides a broad, qualitative look at how engineers use computers at work. Moreover, the survey records the opinions of practicing engineers concerning how well their undergraduate education prepared them for computer use.
In addition to the survey results and interpretation, the paper includes interviews and a literature review from engineering education. The survey, interviews, and literature review will be synthesized to provide an explanation of how engineers use computers in the workplace and what implications this use has for undergraduate education. Examples are given from specific curriculum changes under consideration at LSU.
For quite some time, engineering educators have sought to close the gap between the amount and type of computer expertise that undergraduates are given at the university and that which those students will need on the job (for an example, see Kimel and Monsees, 1979).