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Balancing the Engineering Disciplines!: An Interdisciplinary First-Year Design Project

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Peter L.L. Walls Dunwoody College of Technology

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Peter Walls is a Senior Instructor in the Mechanical Engineering department at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, MN. He has a broad background of industry experience in New Product Development, Mining, Manufacturing, Defense, Biotech, and Research & Development. Peter received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University.

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Jonathan Aurand P.E. Dunwoody College of Technology

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Jonathan Aurand has been teaching mechanical engineering at Dunwoody College of Technology since 2016. Prior to joining the faculty at Dunwoody, Aurand practiced as an engineer in the power industry serving as a consulting engineer for Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSGs) in combined cycle power plants. Aurand is a registered professional engineer in Minnesota and holds an MSME degree from the University of Minnesota. He currently resides in Minneapolis, MN.

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When engineering students graduate and begin work as an engineer, they are confronted with the reality of the interdisciplinary nature of the workplace. This reality frequently extends beyond engineering disciplines and includes colleagues from other backgrounds ranging from project managers, marketing and sales, to assemblers, machinists, and technicians. Often, they are also required to follow a documented or prescribed process that may resemble an engineering design process. To better prepare students for both engineering practice and internships along the way, we developed a semester-long design project that is bound by many of these constraints. This Work in Progress paper will describe the project goals and constraints, periodic checkpoints that reinforce the engineering design process, assessment methods, and project motivations with the objective of enabling others to successfully implement the design project in their course.

Since its founding, [Institution name removed for review] has prided itself on ensuring students learn in an environment that mirrors industry as closely as possible. With this history in mind, we guide interdisciplinary groups of students consisting of electrical, mechanical, and software engineering majors through the engineering design process. The project objective it to research, design, build, calibrate, and test a balance or scale with a digital readout made from simple components. Successful completion requires elements of each engineering discipline represented in the course. The course itself, Introduction to Engineering, is laid out in a manner that incrementally introduces each of the concepts required for the design. For example, the concept of forces and moments are introduced within the mechanical engineering module prior to requesting the students demonstrate their weight measurement scheme.

The project was carried out with three independent sections of students participating in team sizes ranging from 2 – 3 students, with the intent of having a mix of all three disciplines when possible. Preliminary lessons learned and feedback from administering the project are presented. Additionally, resulting designs are compiled and organized into categories, with some common themes and pitfalls identified. Recommendations for future iterations that incorporate lessons learned are discussed.

Walls, P. L., & Aurand, J. (2021, July), Balancing the Engineering Disciplines!: An Interdisciplinary First-Year Design Project Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36737

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