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A Successful Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Experience

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.127.1 - 8.127.10



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Paper Authors

author page

James Moriarty

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

A Successful Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Experience by Dr. Steve Northrup, Dr. James Moriarty, Dr. Glenn Vallee and Dr. Walter Presz, Jr.


An interdisciplinary team design experience has been successfully integrated into the senior engineering laboratory effort at Western New England College. The project objective was to introduce the students to the design process typically associated with new product development. The approach was to have student teams develop a solar powered vehicle prototype which can transport bottled water between two points on a sloped parking surface as quickly as possible. The effort required the parallel development of a computerized performance prediction system for future product optimization. Several constraints were specified for the design effort. The vehicle had to be untethered, had to be powered by a specified solar panel, had to be fabricated at the College with the help of the College machinist, and had to cost less than $200. The effort had to result in both a working prototype model and a computerized performance prediction system for future optimization of the product. Mechanical, electrical and computer engineering students were combined into teams with five to six members. Each team was required to: conduct a product design feasibility study, conduct design brainstorming sessions, investigate energy storage procedures, conduct conceptual design studies, conduct component optimization tests, design and fabricate a product prototype, develop a prototype prediction system, design and fabricate on board procedures to collect, store and analyze performance data, and to use collected prototype data to optimize a computerized performance prediction system for the product. Weekly meetings were held where each team would give a brief oral presentation describing both, the work status with respect to their program schedule, and the team-spending summary. This interdisciplinary team design program has been conducted successfully for several years at Western New England College. The students enjoy the effort and learn a lot about real world product design and development problems including team dynamics. This paper describes the details of the design experience, discusses efforts that were found to be successful, presents sample team prototype results, and discusses student comments and feedback.


Western New England College has a long history of incorporating engineering design into its laboratories and courses. This year marks the College’s 41 st annual capstone design effort. In addition, interdisciplinary team efforts are initiated in the freshman year and continue for all four years [1]. This paper describes one such interdisciplinary lab exercise, performed in the fall of the student’s senior year. This focused effort brings together students from Mechanical (ME), Electrical (EE) and Computer Engineering (CPE). The

Moriarty, J. (2003, June), A Successful Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Experience Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11781

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