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An Evaluation Of Humanities And Social Science Requirements In An Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Assessing Where We Stand

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.164.1 - 10.164.11



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Paper Authors

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Steve Eisenbarth

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Kenneth Van Treuren

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

Session 3461

An Evaluation of Humanities and Social Science Requirements in an Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum Ken Van Treuren and Steve Eisenbarth Baylor University


Engineering design is a structured, creative process, where engineers strive to develop solutions to perceived problems or needs by the application of theoretical and practical knowledge. The design process is a quest for technological objects, wherein the solution to the posed problem is intrinsic or inherent in the resultant object. However, the design solution [object] must exist in a real world context, which defines the extrinsic interactions or externalities of the object. These externalities include elements of aesthetics, economic factors, safety, risk, reliability, maintainability, sustainability; cultural, age, and gender appropriateness; environmental impact, energy efficiency, and end-of-life resource recovery, among others. It is within the realm of a design’s externalities that engineers must apply knowledge and values that are derived from cultural resources normally outside of an engineer’s training and experience. Because the externalities of a design are rising in importance, it is necessary to examine and evaluate the normal sources of such non-engineering experience, i.e. the humanities and social science components of an undergraduate engineering curriculum, to determine its adequacy. The humanities and social science components of an undergraduate engineering program are typically derived from the non-intentional “general distribution requirements” of the university and are not necessarily tailored to meet the needs of engineers. The humanities and social science components of Baylor’s engineering programs are evaluated and compared to those of other major universities to identify negative trends and to evaluate the adequacy of these curricular components to inform and influence the extrinsic elements of engineering design. Several student design experiences from Baylor’s engineering programs have been reviewed and evaluated to determine precisely how the humanities and social science curricular components support the engineering design experience.


Design processes are at the heart of the engineering enterprise. Design is ultimately the task that engineering students must accomplish. The task of engineering educators is to prepare graduates who are designers. Quite often the academic role is seen as only imparting knowledge to the student, with carefully crafted curricula. Early courses impart foundational engineering sciences and mathematics knowledge followed by a succession of depth oriented engineering courses, culminating in a capstone design experience. These courses generally require students to have mastered the associated material from the prerequisite courses so that they can draw upon previous material at will as they learn design methodologies, techniques and strategies. In addition to the technical component, accreditation requirements delegate one quarter of the curriculum to communication skills and humanities and social science coursework. If Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Eisenbarth, S., & Van Treuren, K. (2005, June), An Evaluation Of Humanities And Social Science Requirements In An Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14543

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