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Building Engineering Communication Skills Through Short Assignments

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Communication and Professional Skills in BME

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.331.1 - 12.331.17



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Paper Authors


Joe Tranquillo

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JOSEPH V TRANQUILLO is an assistant professor of biomedical and electrical engineering at Bucknell University. Dr. Tranquillo teaches courses primarily in bioinstrumentation. His research focuses on theoretical and computational models of electrical activity in the heart.

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Daniel Cavanagh Bucknell University

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

Building Engineering Communication Skills 1

Building Engineering Communication Skills Through Short Assignments

Abstract Engineers are expected to be able to communicate via memos, abstracts, graphics, brief communications and oral presentations. Communication skills, however, are often practiced in an undergraduate engineering curriculum either through detailed and lengthy laboratory reports or final oral presentations. The authors have developed a generic sequence of short assignments that build skills needed to produce a final written oral or graphical communication. Each short assignment focuses student attention on a particular component of the final communication. For example, in a sophomore-level Fundamentals of Biomedical Engineering class, students are challenged to report results of a hands-on activity using only a single graphic and 200-word explanation. As students become more effective at conveying their ideas in individual sections, the emphasis can turn toward transitions between sections. After following this sequence, the final communication may be assigned with few explicit instructions aside from format. Limiting the space or time students have to convey ideas may also be applied to the final communication. For example, in a junior-level Biomedical Signals and Systems course, students are challenged to explain semester-long projects in a two-page IEEE format article and 20- minute presentation/demonstration.

The instructional model works equally well with written, oral or graphical communications and is well suited as a parallel to a large course project. Limiting the space and time to convey ideas has the added benefit of focusing student attention on the important technical objectives of a laboratory exercise. After implementing this instructional model, the faculty have observed a rise in the quality of written, oral, graphical and technical work. Furthermore, end of course evaluations indicate that students understand how the sequence of short assignments develop technical communication skills.

Tranquillo, J., & Cavanagh, D. (2007, June), Building Engineering Communication Skills Through Short Assignments Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2133

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