Westmont Magazine A Liberal Arts Approach to Educating Ethical Engineers
Westmont has developed a Christian liberal arts brand of mechanical engineering, and Adam Goodworth, a kinesiology professor who specializes in biomechanics, helps to shape it. After joining the faculty in 2019 as the first class of engineering students arrived, he is launching new opportunities for interdisciplinary classes and projects. This summer he’ll work with several kinesiology students and an engineering student on a collaborative project where they bring their specialized skills to study injury bio-mechanics. Goodworth seeks to equip his engineering students with extensive technical expertise and to graduate well-rounded engineers able to see the big picture and brainstorm with others.
“Our graduates will not only know how to design, build and analyze, but they’ll know why they’re designing, building and analyzing,” he says. “Graduates will understand broader implications of their work and discern their own motivations and God’s purpose for their labor. They’ll be capable of thinking through ambiguous and complex topics while seeking to honor God. They will be thoughtful, humble, honest and alive. To me, this aspirational view is the perfect fit for many prospective students.”
Goodworth’s current research projects, which have also included summer student researchers, focus on two areas: developing models of a trunk posture control system in children with cerebral palsy; and investigating if microprocessor knees can improve balance in above-knee amputees.
The cerebral palsy project, supported by the National Science Foundation, merges engineering with clinical application. Goodworth and a clinical specialist at the University of Hartford recently published a study of their findings in the Journal of Neurophysiology.
The second project, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, uses two custom-built motorized systems to upset balance while standing and walking. “The walking system includes a treadmill that can translate right and left, customizing a balance challenge for each person,” he says. “This allows us to investigate how amputees can adjust their reactive balance with a microprocessor knee.” The clinical collaborator is a certified prosthetist and orthoptist.
With a background in human injury and vehicle safety, Goodworth may soon teach a cross-listed elective course in forensic engineering or biomechanics. He earned a doctorate from Oregon Health and Science University and earned a Professional Engineer License in Mechanical Engineering. This training has prepared him to teach many of the topics engineering students will need to master. “I want to support our graduating seniors taking their Fundamentals of Engineering exam and support the curriculum development at Westmont,” he says. “During the studying process, I was surprised by how much I still enjoyed learning—or relearning—this stuff. A good 80 percent of the preparation was truly fun.”
Dan Jensen, director and professor of engineering, arrived on campus for the spring 2021 semester. The college has also submitted plans to construct a metal warehouse for the engineering department, which the Montecito Planning Commission is reviewing.
“Incoming and current students will have ownership of a specific area of the building with access to manufacturing and rapid prototyping,” Goodworth says. “I’m excited to see a third class of engineering students during their first semester next fall.”
He examines various aspects of engineering and design innovation in his Engineering and the Liberal Arts course, developed primarily for first-year engineering students. “We explain why a foundation in the liberal arts provides today’s engineers with important training in creative problem solving and innovation in an ever-changing and quickly developing world,” Goodworth says. “I’m excited to see engineers coming out of Westmont with strong design abilities, solid technical skills and a broad aptitude for ethics, communications and social awareness. I care deeply about the unique combination at Westmont of tangible global opportunities as well as the depth of thought and character internally beyond and throughout engineering, kinesiology and all subjects.”
Find more information about engineering at westmont.edu/engineering.