MIT professor, scholar of engineering design Woodie Flowers to speak Oct. 28


Training and education, says Professor Woodie Flowers, are very different. “I think it is time to shift gears – to shift away from the ‘sage on the stage,’” says Flowers. Universities, he says, need to get out of the business of training.

Flowers, emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will speak at Vanderbilt University Oct. 28 at Wilson Hall. His address is titled “On Shifting away from Training toward Education.”

The event will begin at 4 p.m. and is followed by a complimentary reception at 5 p.m. in Room 103 in Wilson Hall.  The event is free and open to the public.  Reservations are not required, but seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-seated basis.  Parking will be available in Terrace Place Garage at 21st Avenue South and Terrace Place.

Flowers is a pioneering scholar of engineering design and product development, and has been instrumental in shaping MIT’s design curriculum. He holds the Pappalardo Professorship and is a MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT.

A passionate advocate of science and engineering education, Flowers co-founded and has served as national adviser and chair of the executive advisory board for FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization that develops ways to inspire students in engineering and technology fields.  He also oversees FIRST’s annual robotics competition. Each year, the Woodie Flowers Award is given by FIRST to one mentor for his or her contributions to the students on their team. Flowers was the first recipient of the award in 1996.

Flowers also hosted Scientific American Frontiers on PBS from 1990 to the spring of 1993.

Flowers earned his bachelor of science at Louisiana Polytechnic University in 1966 and added a master of science, a master of engineering and a Ph.D., all from MIT between 1968 and 1972. He was made an assistant professor at MIT in 1972 and a professor in 1988. In 2007, he earned a Honoris Causa from Chilean university Universidad Nacional Andrés Bello. He also holds the title “Distinguished Partner” at Olin College.

Flowers’ speech is part of the Chancellor’s Lecture Series, which serves to bring to Vanderbilt and the wider Nashville community intellectuals who are shaping the world today. For more information about the Chancellor’s Lecture Series, visit


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