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An Integrated Approach To Developing Professional And Technical Skills In Engineering Undergraduates

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.97.1 - 5.97.12



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Paper Authors

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Thomas Litzinger

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Session Number 2630

An Integrated Approach to Developing Professional and Technical Skills in Engineering Undergraduates

Thomas A. Litzinger, Professor Mechanical Engineering, Penn State, University Park, PA 16802


The general consensus in industry, government, and academia is that engineers will need more highly developed professional skills to succeed in the new millenium. Of the ABET EC2000 eleven basic outcomes, six relate to professional skills such as communication, teamwork, and understanding broader issues related to engineering. Thus, engineering programs must find ways to more effectively develop students’ professional skills, without sacrificing the development of their technical skills. This paper describes one approach to achieving the simultaneous development of professional and technical skills, which requires students to practice these skills in an integrated fashion within a realistic context. This approach was implemented in a senior elective on internal combustion engines, which provided the technical focus for the course. The core of the approach is problem-based learning; however, critical to the approach are explicit objectives related to oral and written communication, team skills, consideration of engineers’ roles in society and the effects of society on engineering, and application of engineering fundamentals in design and computer modeling. The paper describes the course objectives, the course structure, and the specific tasks that students were asked to undertake in teams. These relationship of the course structure and the ABET outcomes are also discussed. For each task, the quality of the students’ work is discussed along with selected comments from students on how they perceived the tasks. Detailed assessment was performed throughout the course; its structure and some highlights of the results are presented.


Industry, academia, professional societies, and the federal government have been calling for enhancement of engineering education to properly prepare students for success in the highly competitive, global marketplace. The NSF report, Shaping the Future,1 points out that “too many graduates go out into the workplace ill-prepared to solve real problems in a cooperative way, lacking the skills and motivation to continue learning.” The NRC report, Engineering

Litzinger, T. (2000, June), An Integrated Approach To Developing Professional And Technical Skills In Engineering Undergraduates Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8468

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