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History of 2-A June 2, 2009

Posted by nehalita in General Information.
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A lot of people have been wondering about the history of 2-A – when did it start? Why does it even exist? Don’t worry, we were also curious, so Shanette and I interviewed Professor Lienhard. Here’s what we learned:

BEGINNINGS

Think back to when you arrived on campus as a freshman; you probably remember going to the Academic Fair and looking at all of the majors, separated into their own booths. Seeing everything separated was probably comforting – everything had its own place and category, and made MIT a little less overwhelming and a lot more manageable.

Fastforward four years: it’s senior year, and as we begin our foray into the real world, we come to the realization that the lines that once defined and separated one major from the other while we were at college aer much fuzzier in the real world. Surprisingly enough, we as mechanical engineers have to talk to and work with people whose background in mechanical engineering is nonexistent! When the real world doesn’t have these boundaries, why must we, the students and future of America, limit our knowledge within a particular specialty as well?

This was the very issue that the department sought to find a solution for, and thus, in 1934, 2-A was established as a separate course. The newly founded course was extremely attractive to students who were interested in disciplines that did not necessarily overlap with the traditional mechanical engineering curriculum; its flexibility allowed students to not only gain a strong foundation in basic engineering principles, but also to tailor their curriculum to fit their interests. The department continued to grow under the watchful guidance of Professor Tom Sheridan, who was integral in improving 2-A at MIT in the mid-90s.

ACCREDITATION

In 2000, the 2-A administration submitted the curriculum for accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), and was granted accreditation by the ABET commission in 2001. At this time, students did not have to take 2.009 and could opt for a “design thesis.” Since then, several changes were made to the major, including the requirement of 2.009 and 2.671, to the curriculum. More importantly, the accreditation elevated the status of 2-A as a major at MIT, putting it on “the same footing as a Course 2 degree.”

PRESENT

Now, 2-A is an accredited major; the requirements were recently changed to include 2 level II mechanical engineering classes and 66 engineering units above and beyond the level I and level II required courses. It looks like people are quite happy with 2-A: its enrollment went up this year by 24%!

Some people may be curious about how Course 2 compares to 2-A. A study comparing gender, minority enrollment, GPA, and career tracks found no significant differences between the two courses; it was even found that some students enrolled in 2-A had heavier and/or more difficult course loads that students enrolled in 2. It has also been found that approximately equal numbers of recent graduates entered the fields of engineering, management, and other professional fields (such as law or medicine) regardless of major.

FUTURE

While there are currently no plans to change the 2-A curriculum in the near future, the department always has the students’ best interests in mind. Engineering is a continuously evolving discipline and as new topics and fields emerge, the Undergraduate Committee will make a great effort to take these trends into account. After all, the students are the priority.

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Comments»

1. sandraraven - June 30, 2009

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.


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