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Applying Engineering Economic Analysis To Contemporary Problems With Global And Societal Implications

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Innovation in Teaching Engineering Economics

Tagged Division

Engineering Economy

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.222.1 - 11.222.8



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Paper Authors


Karen Bursic University of Pittsburgh

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Karen M. Bursic is an Assistant Professor in Industrial Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. She specializes in teaching courses in engineering economic analysis, probability and statistics, and engineering computing. Prior to joining the department she worked as a Senior Consultant for Ernst and Young and as an Industrial Engineer for General Motors Corporation. She has also taught in the Katz Graduate School of Business (at the University of Pittsburgh) and at The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Bursic has done research and published work in the areas Engineering and Project Management and Engineering Education. She is a member of IIE and ASEE and is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Pennsylvania.

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

Applying Engineering Economic Analysis to Contemporary Problems with Global and Societal Implications


This paper describes the use of contemporary issues to teach students to solve problems in a global and societal context in an introductory engineering economic analysis course at the University of Pittsburgh. The goals of the project are to increase student understanding and awareness of contemporary decision making in engineering and ensure that students are able to apply the economic concepts and techniques being taught in the classroom to these decisions. A form of the problem-based learning methodology is applied here. This project is also aimed at meeting the requirements of the ABET outcomes h. and j. The paper describes this effort and reviews student self-report surveys regarding whether completing the course project contributed to their understanding of and ability to make decisions and solve contemporary problems. The results show the benefits of this approach and the need to continue to refine such efforts in the classroom.


The ability to complete an economic analysis is a core competency for any engineer employed in a decision-making role. Engineers must be able to apply the body of knowledge that is taught under the heading of “engineering economic analysis” in contemporary problem solving situations. As many engineering education researchers have pointed out, if we are to be successful in meeting ABET criteria and improving undergraduate engineering education, we must begin to teach students to be “problem solvers”. 5, 6, 7 Problem-based learning9 is a methodology in which complex open-ended problems requiring students to apply the course knowledge and skills are introduced. These problems are typically posed before the knowledge and skills are actually taught in order to motivate learning. Typically the problems are worked on in teams. The application of problem-based learning in engineering education is not new and has been proven to be successful in many programs.1,2,4,8,10,12 With the assignment described in this paper, we are attempting a form of problem-based learning by assigning a project during the first week of class. This project requires the application of the techniques and methodologies taught throughout the semester and is completed in small groups.

In the School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, our three-credit introductory economic analysis course (IE 1040) is a service course taught to over 200 engineering students per year from all disciplines within the school. The course has traditionally required the completion of a project. In the past, students were permitted to select their own project ideas; however this often led to students solving trivial, unrealistic, or non-contemporary problems. In addition, little connection was made between the course learning objectives and the ongoing projects. Beginning in the 2005-2006 academic year, students enrolled in the course are required to research and complete an economic analysis of an assigned problem. Students chose from one of two contemporary problems that may be encountered in industrial organizations. With the

Bursic, K. (2006, June), Applying Engineering Economic Analysis To Contemporary Problems With Global And Societal Implications Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--319

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