David E. Clough is known to students, among other things, as the Faculty Athletics Representative—the professor who speaks liberally to his classes about CU sports. To me, he was the one who taught the first class of the day my first semester in college.
Engineering computing was a blast for all of us zombie freshmen in that dark Duane Physics lecture hall. That 8 A.M. featured as much CU talk as clicker questions if I exaggerate correctly.
Characterized by one chemical engineer, Peter Cook ‘11, as a “dinosaur,” Clough began teaching at Boulder in 1975. He first visited Colorado during high school when his older brother was working at Martin Marietta. He received his BS from Case Institute of Technology in 1968. After completing his masters at CU-Boulder, Clough worked briefly in industry before coming back to Boulder to do his PhD. “Then the circumstances opened in 1975 with a faculty position,” Clough said. Apparently the committee liked him.
In 1986 he was responsible for adding the lengthy recitation to the engineering computing course now known as GEEN 1300. Clough envisioned that the recitation would build critical thinkers. It was envisioned for students so that “[First] they see somebody do a problem, then do the problem on their own, then apply the skill elsewhere in class. It’s active engagement, ” Clough said.
In mid-90’s Clough conceived a new idea: the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program and Laboratory (ITLL), another institution well-known to CU engineering students. “Somewhere around the mid-1990’s I bought into the idea of getting students engaged instead of listening to people talk,” Clough said. The College of Engineering and Applied Science saw that four departments had separate, poorly-maintained fluid labs, for instance, and it was decided that the college needed to provide a common hands-on learning area. And like that, the ITLL was born. The first courses taking advantage of the
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program and Laboratory were Applied Data and Instrument Process Control and the new Engineering Projects class.
Clough has continually improved the curriculum at the College of Engineering. He has adapted computing classes into short courses to teach to practicing engineers. “I find out what they’re doing, then what they need. They find great benefit to use the tools they have better,” Clough said. The key word is better. Approximately only two engineers in a class of twenty-five have access to MATLAB. This statistic struck Clough. He added Excel and VBA to the existing Engineering Computing courses. “Obviously having a good knack at using computers to solve problems on the cheap is really valuable. Most everyone sees VBA in school now, whereas ten or fifteen years ago not even spreadsheets were being taught most places,” Clough said.
Despite his schedule, Professor Clough works a small amount with former students in industry, helping to come up with creative solutions to problems. His favorite area to design for is control systems because it involves engineering solutions for anything from building canals to biomedicine. “It’s very rewarding,” Clough said.
Imagine walking into an office where a professor is freely speaking Spanish to a student, or laughing as he helps the student with coursework. You’ve imagined Clough. Do not think of him as just a professor—he’s more than that. “It’s been a very good ride,” Clough said.