Brooks and Chilcutt Publish ‘Engineered to Speak’

Aug 5, 2019

Dr. Alexa Chilcutt and Dr. Adam Brooks, directors of The University of Alabama’s Public Speaking Program and The Speaking Studio have partnered with IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization and Wiley Press to author the newest Professional Series title, Engineered to Speak: Helping You Create and Deliver Engaging Technical Presentations.

The past five years, Chilcutt and Brooks have designed and administered more than 100 professional development workshops for corporations and continuing education departments nationwide, teaching a vast skillset of transferable communication skills. The text is designed to pair their approachable workshop style with the experiences of dozens of technical professionals to teach oral communication, public speaking and visual aid design skills to a STEM audience.

“What we’re seeing across the globe is a large conversation about how quickly we’re advancing in technologies and the ways in which this is going to fundamentally transform our country and the world,” said Brooks. “However, many of these brilliant minds—scientists, engineers, software developers—lack the skills and knowledge to effectively communicate their ideas to any audience.”

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has noticed and has taken action. As the accrediting body of more than 4,000 programs in 32 countries worldwide, ABET updated its 2018-19 criteria for Accrediting Engineering Technology Programs. The update includes, “an ability to apply written, oral, and graphical communication in both technical and non‐technical environments; and an ability to identify and use appropriate technical literature.”

Chilcutt and Brooks’ book is designed to promote these outcomes. All the concepts, assessments, and exercises within the book are aimed at building oral and visual communication skills. In addition, the Supplemental Chapter includes a complete 10-module curriculum with lesson plans and assessments.

“Engineering curriculum is intense and extremely dense. It is difficult for them to squeeze in a course devoted to communication. Now, according to ABET they are required  to incorporate learning outcomes that ensure  proficient communication skills.,” said Chilcutt. “We have specifically written the book to include a 10-module  curriculum based on our experience teaching the aeronautical and mechanical engineer Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) program funded by the NSF here at UA since 2011. This will allow  engineering programs to drop learning modules into existing curriculum.”

Chilcutt and Brooks interviewed lead engineers and technical professionals around the world, ranging from the heads of research teams at NASA to civil engineers serving small municipalities. They incorporated their stories and strategies into the text in a way that speaks directly to today’s technical professional.

“Our hope is to plant the flag as the first communication professionals to have authored a book and created a partnership with a publisher specializing in STEM publications like Wiley Press,” said Chilcutt.

The book became available online on Amazon or through the Wiley IEEE Press Professional Series site August 2, 2019, and is currently as Amazon’s #1 listing in the category “New Releases in Engineering.”