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A Systems Approach To Integrating Technical Communications Instruction With The Engineering Curriculum

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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

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.131.1 - 8.131.12



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Paper Authors

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Cecelia Wigal

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

Session 2793

A Systems Approach to Integrating Technical Communications Instruction with the Engineering Curriculum

Cecelia M. Wigal, Ph.D., P.E. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Abstract Practicing engineers, industry representatives, and ABET recognize the need for technical communication instruction in the engineering curricula. There are various means for introducing and exposing students to technical communication. In 2000, the faculty at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) initiated an integration of the technical communications instruction (ITC) with the core engineering curriculum. Presently, the ITC program and process is being reviewed and documented using a systems approach. This paper provides an overview of problem solving using the systems approach and a discussion of the ITC program and its present status of definition according to system models.

Introduction The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems that we can not solve at the same level (of consciousness) at which we have created them… We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humankind is to survive. –Albert Einstein Engineers seek solutions for simple to very complex problems. They communicate these solutions to their peers, their management, various internal and external customers, and the general public by corresponding, instructing, analyzing, researching, and presenting. Visuals and document design features as well as state-of-the-art hardware and software enhance an engineer’s ability to effectively communicate. Effective use of these tools requires knowledge of (1) what tools are available, (2) how to best integrate these tools, and, most importantly, (3) how the reader and listener best grasp written and orally communicated information.

This paper describes a systems approach to integrating technical communication with the engineering curriculum. To introduce this approach, the basic theory behind systems thinking—including systems methodologies and systems definition—and the relationship systems thinking has with the problem solving process are discussed. In addition, specific tools and models used in systems analysis are introduced. Using some of these tools and models, the paper presents the process being developed for the engineering program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) that introduces technical communication in the freshmen year and develops competency as the students’ programs advance through the senior year.

Systems and Systems Analysis For every complex problem there is always a simple solution. And it is wrong. –H.L. Mencken Systems analysis fundamentally differs from traditional forms of analysis. It begins with analysis—separating a study into individual pieces—but emphasizes synthesis—looking at the

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

Wigal, C. (2003, June), A Systems Approach To Integrating Technical Communications Instruction With The Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12559

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