Dr. Karl A. Smith has been at the University of Minnesota since 1972 and is in phased retirement as Morse–Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor and Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota. His research and development interests include building rigorous research capacity in engineering education; the role of cooperation in learning and design; problem formulation, modeling, and knowledge engineering; and project and knowledge management. His Bachelor's and Master's degrees are in Metallurgical Engineering from Michigan Technological University and his Ph.D. is in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota.

He is currently Co–PI on two NSF Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT) grants — Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE) and National Center for Engineering and Technology Education (NCETE). He is also Co–PI on an NSF CCLI National Dissemination grant entitled "Rigorous Research in Engineering Education: Creating a Community of Practice."

He has written eight books including How to model it: Problem solving for the computer age (with A.M. Starfield and A.L. Bleloch), published by McGraw-Hill in 1990 (and republished by Interaction Book Company in 1994); Cooperative learning: Increasing college faculty instructional productivity (with David and Roger Johnson), published by ASHE-ERIC Reports on Higher Education in 1991; Strategies for energizing large classes: From small groups to learning communities (with James Cooper and Jean MacGregor) published in Jossey–Bass's New Direction for Teaching and Learning series in 2000; and Teamwork and project management, 3rd Ed. (with P.K. Imbrie) published in McGraw–Hill's BEST Series in 2007.