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Proposal 15-15

The University Senate of Michigan Technological University

Proposal 15-15
(Voting Units: Academic)


Contact: Daniel R. Fuhrmann, Dave House Professor and Chair
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

 PDF Version of Proposal 15-15

1. General description and characteristics of the program

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Technological University proposes a new Concentration in Environmental Applications to be included with the degree Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.   The rationale for creating this Concentration includes: 1) helping current and prospective students to be aware of the many applications of electrical engineering in today’s marketplace, and the opportunities available to electrical engineers with interests in remote sensing, the natural environment, and air and/or water quality, and 2) attracting more women into the field of electrical engineering and to Michigan Tech. The Concentration includes 6 credits in required basic environmental engineering topics, 6 or 7 credits in remote sensing topics, and 6 credits in environmental quality engineering topics, for a total of 18 or 19 credits.   The Concentration can be completed within the 128 units required for the BSEE degree, with courses applied to the EE electives, approved electives, select approved electives, and with the substitution of one course in the EE core curriculum. The concentration is based entirely on existing courses at Michigan Tech and therefore no new resources are required. This proposal is supported by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

2.  Rationale 

Electrical engineering and affiliated fields such as computer engineering and computer science are among the technical disciplines which are experiencing the highest demand currently among prospective employers. This is particularly true at Michigan Tech, where our educational approach emphasizing a firm grounding in the fundamentals, individual skills, team-based projects, and hands-on experiences produces graduates which are highly recruited in industry. For example, at the Fall 2014 Career Fair, there were representatives from 341 companies and organizations on campus; 196 were seeking electrical engineers and 103 were seeking computer engineers for co-ops, internships, and full-time positions. Self-reported data from the Michigan Tech EE and CpE graduates in the Class of 2013 indicates a 96% placement rate and an average starting salary in excess of $60,000.

A trend observed in recent years among recruiters at Michigan Tech is the breadth of industrial sectors seeking electrical engineers. In past years, there have always been opportunities in defense and aerospace, communications, computer systems, and (especially for Michigan Tech) utility power, but more recently we see demand in such diverse areas as automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, environmental, transportation, infrastructure, metals, mining, and even the financial and insurance sectors. There has been particular strong interest in control engineering, which spans most if not all of these fields. The reason behind this renewed interest in electrical engineers from such a diverse set of areas is the current technological push toward control and automation across all areas of our society.   This is what some are calling the “4th Industrial Revolution”: a convergence of computing, control, and communication, that brings together homes, buildings, factories, cars and just about every engineered product or system in one vast interconnected network.

One challenge we face as educators in electrical engineering is raising awareness of the breadth of opportunities to our own current and prospective students.   Many come into the field, if they come at all, with vague and ill-informed notions of what electrical engineering is, and what an electrical engineering can be. We need to help students make good choices about the fields or sub-fields that they may enter, and then provide them with the tools they need to be competitive in the job market that they choose to enter. With that as our primary motivation, we introduce here a proposal to establish a Concentration in Environmental Applications within the degree Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. The target audience is that group of students with the interest and aptitude for electrical engineering but with a strong desire to apply their skills in the fields related to environmental quality. We seek to raise awareness of the opportunities in environmental remote sensing, air quality, water quality, and related fields, for EEs, and then provide them with a path through our curriculum that prepares to make their contributions in those areas.

 A secondary motivation for the establishment of this concentration is to attract and retain more women into the field of electrical engineering. This motivation is consistent with University’s 2035 Portrait, which includes a female undergraduate population which is 40% of the total, the College of Engineering’s former strategic goal of being among the 10 largest engineering programs in the nation for women, and the ECE Department’s strategic goal of having undergraduate women make up 20% of our enrollment by 2020.   At the current time we are falling short of these goals by a large margin: Michigan Tech’s engineering program is 34th in the nation in the number of degrees granted to women, and the percentage of women graduating from our EE and CpE programs has averaged 10% for the past five years and fell below that mark in the past two years. At Michigan Tech we are not even keeping pace with national averages: in 2013 the national average for women graduates from EE programs was 12.3%, or 1311 out of 10,662 degrees granted.

In contrast, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and environmental engineering as a field nationwide, is far more successful in attracting women to the profession.   Of the 994 undergraduate degrees in environmental engineering nationwide in 2013, 455, or 46%, went to women.   Of the 177 declared majors in Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech in Fall 2014, 94, or 53%, are women.

In addition to showing the strong interest among women in environment-related fields, the data above indicate that there is a significant number of women entering the field of electrical engineering, just not as large a number in proportion to men as in environmental engineering. Hence, we feel that there is an underserved market here: undergraduate students with an inclination toward electrical engineering and who want to practice their trade to make advances in environmental quality.   Obviously this applies to all students but we believe this may include a significant number of women. The proposed concentration is designed specifically to meet this need.

3. Discussion of related programs within the institution and at other institutions

3.1. Michigan Technological University

Our College of Engineering is home to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, each with its own successful undergraduate programs.   The proposed concentration is in no way a duplication of, or in competition with, Michigan Tech’s undergraduate program in environmental engineering. We have chosen the name of the concentration, Environmental Applications, carefully to underscore the distinction. The field of environmental engineering is focused on the environment, whereas electrical engineering students in this concentration will still focus on electrical engineering – signal processing, remote sensing, instrumentation, industrial control, etc. – and will be seeking ways to apply those skills toward applications which maintain or improve different aspects of the environment. Recognizing that there is this distinction, and in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has reviewed and endorsed the proposed concentration. A letter of support from the Chair, Prof. David Hand, is attached.

Michigan Tech offers an Interdisciplinary Minor in Remote Sensing which has some elements in common with the proposed Concentration. This is a 16-credit minor that requires one course in general remote sensing and electives chosen from menus in four different topical areas: Data Analysis and Applications, Data Management, Data Acquisition and Processing, and Independent Study. The courses on each of the menus are drawn from many units across campus; the ECE Department is prominently featured in the courses under Data Acquisition and Processing. The distinction between the Concentration in Environmental Applications and Interdisciplinary Minor in Remote Sensing is that the Concentration includes elements in three different areas: environmental engineering fundamentals, remote sensing, and environmental quality engineering. While remote sensing is important for monitoring the environment, and one in which electrical engineers can play a key role through sensors, data acquisition, and signal processing, a second and equally important piece is the set of engineered systems such as wastewater treatment or air quality management that protect the environment or perform some remediation function.   Electrical engineers have a role to play in the latter area through the application of electronics, instrumentation, and industrial control systems. The purpose of the Concentration is to give electrical engineering students some exposure to the range of ways that their skills can be used on both sides of the equation: remote sensing and environmental quality engineering.

3.2. Other Universities

Programs in electrical engineering and environmental engineering exist in every major engineering school in the U.S., including the other research universities in the state of Michigan, and our peer institutions such as Colorado School of Mines and Missouri University of Science and Technology. However, we see little overlap between these programs, in the form of programs that expose electrical engineering students to environmental applications or vice versa. Many schools including Penn State, UCLA, UC-Berkeley, Cornell, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Illinois-Chicago, offer minors in environmental engineering, open to engineering students in other disciplines. Michigan State University offers a Minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies, available to all MSU undergraduates and focusing more on science rather than engineering. Minors in remote sensing are less common, but can be found at the University of Wyoming, the University of Arizona, Boston University, and NCSU, among others. We believe that the proposed Concentration offers Michigan Tech an opportunity to lead the way for others, because it is specifically designed to expose our electrical engineering students to ways in which they can use their skills in sensing and control to make a contribution in the critical area of environmental protection.
4.  Curriculum design

The curriculum for the proposed Concentration in Biomedical Applications is consistent with the requirements of University Senate Proposal 15-11. In particular:

“Concentrations (also referred to as options) within a major degree program will be granted to students who have completed the requirements established by the program's home academic unit at Michigan Technological University. Concentrations will be noted on official transcripts and diplomas. The purpose of a concentration is to give recognition that the student has actively and consciously engaged the intellectual issues central to the concentration.”

“A concentration does not have any specific credit limitations, except that the total number of credits required by the degree and the major concentration combined may not exceed 128 credits (or 131 credits if 3 credits of free elective are included in the degree requirements). The academic unit offering the concentration determines specific courses fulfilling the requirement. The minimum grade-point average required for the concentration is that of the major degree program.”

The current Michigan Tech BSEE curriculum is summarized in Table 4.1.  

General Education Required Courses

12 Credits

Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Distribution Courses

12 Credits

Math, Physics, and Engineering Fundamentals Required Courses

30 Credits

Electrical Engineering Core Curriculum

46 Credits

Capstone Design

  6 Credits

Electrical Engineering Electives

15 Credits

Approved Electives

  3 Credits

Select Approved Electives

  3 Credits

Free Electives

  1 Credits




128 Credits

Table 4.1. Summary of Michigan Tech BSEE Curriculum 

In the BSEE curriculum, “approved electives” are chosen from a broad menu of courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics offered across all of Michigan Tech. “Selected approved electives” are chosen from a restricted menu of courses offered primarily in the College of Engineering, effectively creating an engineering distribution requirement.

The curriculum for the Concentration in Environmental Applications, within the Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, comprises 18 credits of required and elective courses, offered by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and others, as described in Table 4.2.

To comply with the requirement that the total number of credits for the BSEE degree with the Concentration not exceed 128, the courses required for the Concentration will be used toward BSEE core and elective credit, as summarized in Table 4.3. This requires the following modification to the BSEE degree requirements, which will be allowed only for those students electing the concentration:

  • EE 3250, Introduction to Communication Systems, will be removed from the BSEE core requirements, and replaced with ENVE 3501, Environmental Engineering Fundamentals.

  • All other ENVE courses plus GE 4250, from Table 4.2, will be added to the list of EE electives and to the list of approved and select approved electives.

Required Courses

6 Credits

       ENVE 3501 Environmental Engineering Fundamentals


       ENVE 3502 Environmental Monitoring and Measurement




Remote Sensing Area

  6/7 Credits

       GE 4250 Fundamentals of Remote Sensing +


       EE 4252 Digital Signal Processing (4 credits)




     EE 3090   Geometrical and Wave Optics +


       EE 3190 Optical Sensing and Imaging




Environmental Quality Engineering Area: Choose 2

  6 Credits

       ENVE 4502 Wastewater Treatment Principles and Design


       ENVE 4503 Drinking Water Treatment Principles and Design


       ENVE 4504 Air Quality Engineering and Science


       ENVE 4505 Surface Water Quality Engineering


     ENVE 4507 Application of Sustainability Principles


       ENVE 4511 Solid and Hazardous Waste Engineering


       ENVE 4512 Green Engineering Design for Sustainability





18/19 Credits

Table 4.2. Curriculum for Concentration in Environmental Applications

EE Core Curriculum

  3 Credits

       ENVE 3501 (replaces EE 3250)




EE Electives

9/10 Credits

     All courses in Table 4.2, other than ENVE 3501




Free, Approved, and Select Approved Electives

  6 Credits

       All GE and ENVE courses in Table 4.2, other than ENVE 3501





18/19 Credits

Table 4.3. Application of Concentration Requirements to BSEE Requirements

5.  New course descriptions

No new courses are required as part of this concentration.

6.  Additional resources required

No additional resources are required, beyond the student and/or teaching support that may be required for the additional undergraduate enrollment that this concentration may bring to Michigan Tech.

7.  Accreditation requirements

Students electing the Concentration in Environmental Applications will see minor changes in the requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, as described in Section 4 above. These changes will only be allowed for students electing and completing all the requirements for the Concentration. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will need to document and justify these changes to the degree requirements in the next accreditation cycle (Fall 2017) for their BSEE program accreditation with the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The Department has done this previously with the Concentration in Photonics and has not experienced any difficulty.

8.  Planned implementation date

Fall 2015.

Introduced to Senate:  19 November 2014
Approved by Senate: 10 December 2014
Approved by Administration:  17 December 2014