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A Model For Integrating Professional Writing Students Into A Technical Design Team

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Publicity Elements of Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.72.1 - 8.72.11



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Paper Authors

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Julie Staggers

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Lynne Slivovsky

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3461

A Model for Integrating Professional Writing Students into a Technical Design Team

Lynne A. Slivovsky and Julie M. Staggers

Purdue University West Lafayette, IN 47907


In technical design classes composed of multidisciplinary teams the difficulties of integrating the liberal arts are well known. These include classroom dynamics, conflicting communication styles, the lack of a common language, and differing problem-solving frameworks. We have piloted a program to integrate teams of undergraduate professional writing students into the Engineering Projects In Community Service (EPICS) curriculum. This program is running on three EPICS teams in conjunction with the Writing For the Computer Industry course in the English department at Purdue University. EPICS is a multidisciplinary vertically integrated design class in which teams of students work on open-ended technical problems in partnerships with local not-for- profit organizations. They design, build, test and deploy projects into the community that meet their partners' specific needs. Our model for integrating professional writing students into EPICS teams allows EPICS students to draw on the expertise of professional writings students in human factors and information design. It gives professional writing students experience working on behalf of technical experts implementing a real-world project. Writers functioned as documentation consultants who helped EPICS teams assess their documentation needs and then produced documentation for end-users. EPICS teams provided subject matter experts and documentation reviewers. Initial products include a troubleshooting guide for an interactive museum exhibit, a user's manual for a county probation database, and an administrator's handbook for EPICS' information management system. Writers gained experience communicating with technical subject matter experts, analyzing systems and investigating the job-specific needs of the products' real-world end users, translating complex technical information into user-friendly documentation aimed at an audience with low-to-intermediate technological proficiency, and working as members of a cross-disciplinary team. EPICS students gained experience communicating with both technical and non-technical audiences, experience defining the scope of their projects, and a greater awareness of the needs and requirements of their customers.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Staggers, J., & Slivovsky, L. (2003, June), A Model For Integrating Professional Writing Students Into A Technical Design Team Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11703

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