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3 Claremont professors awarded engineering's highest honor

January 6, 2012 |  2:44 pm

Three professors from Claremont took the engineering profession's highest honor Friday, winning $500,000 for creating a new way to teach engineering students at Harvey Mudd College.

Clive Dym, Mack Gilkeson and Richard Phillips, all veterans of engineering, were awarded the Bernard M. Gordon Prize by the National Academy of Engineering, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C.

Nearly two decades ago the trio came up with a program that added hands-on learning and experimenting to a curriculum that focused mostly on theory and principle. They emphasized writing and communication skills.

They also gave students a chance to teach grade school pupils and meet successful businesspeople.

"It all seems like common sense now, but at the time it was very innovative, even controversial, because it was such a different way to teach students," said Randy Atkins, spokesman for the academy.

The method elevated Harvey Mudd's department of engineering and paved the way for many engineers. It was adopted by a number of other schools nationwide.

"The programs and curriculum advances they have led have found their way around the world," said Ziyad Duron, chair of the department.

The academy also awarded $500,000 to four other engineers who invented the liquid crystal display screen, the kind now found in cellphones, televisions and computers.

Winners will split the award money among themselves, sharing half their winnings with their respective institutions.

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-- Esmeralda Bermudez

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