On a gray summer morning in Moscow, Skoltech’s president Edward Crawley set out to solve a conundrum: how to get the attention of a roomful of jet-lagged education experts.
Gathered around a massive round table, professors and deans from Sweden to Siberia were in town for an annual conference on project-oriented engineering education. Some blinked in the glaring auditorium spotlights. Others busied themselves with unanswered emails. Crawley took a breath.
Then he said: “Here’s what we need to do. We need to relate to the way young brains and established industries work”. Some in the audience let go of their smartphones. Others raised their heads and tuned in.
“There’s a real advantage in teaching young students within context. This is not about equations – this is about customers’ needs and users’ needs and finding solutions. Real solutions” By now everyone in the room was wide awake. “Where the information will be used, how the knowledge and skills will be applied – that’s what CDIO is about.”
CDIO stands for Conceiving – Designing – Implementing – Operating. It provides an engineering context for educational institutes which send graduates out to the real world, where a young professional cannot settle for knowing the fundamentals but must also understand manufacturing, get design, possess a multidisciplinary perspective. Communication skills and ethical standards are also part of the package.
Crawley envisioned CDIO in the 1990s as a response to industry leaders’ repeated complaints about the quality of tech and engineering students. Now the framework is a worldwide phenomenon, implemented in 111 universities and institutes across five continents – and in Skoltech.
Co-speakers at the conference were Alexander Povalko, the Russian deputy Minister of Education and Science; Johan Malmqvist of Chalmers University; Alexander Chuchalin from Tomsk Polytechnic; and Mikhail Mygakov and Mats Hanson of Skoltech. Judging by the pictures we took they had a reasonably good time at that conference hall.
* The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) is a private graduate research university in Skolkovo, Russia, a suburb of Moscow. Established in 2011 in collaboration with MIT, Skoltech educates global leaders in innovation, advance scientific knowledge, and foster new technologies to address critical issues facing Russia and the world. Applying international research and educational models, the university integrates the best Russian scientific traditions with twenty-first century entrepreneurship and innovation.