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Four Reasons Hands-On Learning Is Valuable For Future Engineers

By Kelly Larson on Friday, August 4, 2023


For prospective families deciding where to educate their future engineer, there are many factors to take into account. One thing to consider is the facilities available and how much faculty promotes hands-on learning. Below are a few reasons why facilities and faculty in an ABET-accredited engineering program are especially valuable.

Students have different styles of learning

There are several theories about learning styles, but regardless of the names, psychologists agree that people have different ways that they take in and retain information best. Most commonly recognized preferences are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (also called hands-on or experiential) learning. One description says, “Students who are kinesthetic learners best understand information through tactile representations of information. These students are hands-on learners and learn best through figuring things out by hand.”

The need for current equipment and software

The saying goes, “The only constant in life is change.” Many careers, from STEM to the arts, require the ability to use modern and the most up-to-date hardware and software. From the frequent changes of medical equipment, to the constant innovation of design systems, the need to stay current on engineering tools has never been more important. Information found in textbooks can become outdated overtime, but hands-on learning using present-day lab equipment is vital.

Immediate feedback and the chance for repetition

While feedback on tests, papers, and presentations are important, often input while in the process of learning can be more memorable. With one-on-one learning in a laboratory, the feedback loop is immediate. Working with a teacher alongside you (literally!) provides instant response and instead, enhances learning. Having someone to guide you allows for learning by trial-and-error in a safe environment.

The opportunity to work on soft skills

When students are in a classroom, their responsibility is to learn the curriculum. Working in a laboratory setting with instructors and classmates, however, requires learning how to work with people. This mirrors a student’s future interactions with managers, co-workers, and  clients. Students put into practice non-technical skills like creative problem solving and upholding ethical responsibilities.

The ability of a student to talk with a potential employer about their experience in sharing a work space, maintaining equipment, and the ability to following procedures makes an attractive candidate. These abilities show real-life experience in addition to a rigorous education. Whether the career goal is working at a large firm or becoming an entrepreneur, students need skills like these in order to succeed.