Engineering Education isn’t the first thing most students think about when applying to engineering school. This major is still somewhat niche, so we thought it would be interesting if students wanted to share how they got interested in engineering education as a discipline. Find Rohit Kandakatla’s story below.
Interested in contributing your own story? We’d love to hear from you! Please email Jenn Pocock at email@example.com with your personal essay. Keep it short–around 350 words–and send a photo we can use!
A Journey to Engineering Education by Rohit Kandakatla
I was brought up in a family full of engineers in India, so it was quite normal for me to have dinnertime conversations about the latest technologies in the market or advancements in science. It wasn’t until undergrad when I realized that there is a vast gap between what I, as a pupil, was taught in class and the technology I saw around me. While the “chalk-and-talk” method continues to be one of the most popular teaching ideals even today, I feel that the field badly needs to transition to a more contemporary style of teaching and learning. Luckily, I was able to make up for my classroom learning by being actively involved in the technical student organizations at college. Thus, while my undergraduate experience did instill in me a hunger for innovation, it also acquainted me with some pressing concerns about the contemporary engineering scenario in India.
I consider my first interaction with the members of the Student Platform for Engineering Education Development (SPEED) back in 2012 as one of the most crucial turning points of my life. Speaking with the members of the organization, we found common ground almost in no time. This was fueled by the fact that the organization had work goals that extended what I had personally undertaken since my undergraduate years. It was here that I was introduced to the field of Engineering Education (EE) through workshops and the development of action plans. Later, I worked with SPEED leaders across different countries to organize events in Austria, Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador.
I was elected as the president of SPEED in 2015, where I got the opportunity to interact with EE researchers and practitioners globally. This gave me an insight into the different areas of EE research happening across the world. During one of the Global Student Forums (GSF) organized by SPEED, I met my adviser, Dr. Jennifer DeBoer, who is also the co-founder of SPEED. One of her multiple research projects focused on higher education capacity-building in Ethiopia. It seemed to align with my research interests and it was then I decided to work under her guidance as a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue. I believe my experiences at Purdue will prepare me to contribute to the development of EE in India once I go back after my Ph.D. I hope to work with universities to train their faculty to effectively teach STEM courses, and work with the government in the educational policy space.
Rohit Kandakatla is a graduate student in engineering education at Purdue University.