Asee peer logo

Catalyzing Systemic Change Towards A Multidisciplinary, Product Innovation Focus

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

ABET Accreditation of Multidisciplinary Programs

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.347.1 - 12.347.17



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Harvey Palmer Rochester Institute of Technology

visit author page

Professor & Dean, Kate Gleason College of Engineering

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Catalyzing Systemic Change towards a Multidisciplinary, Product Innovation Focus Abstract

The mission statement of RIT’s newly created honors program focuses on product innovation for a global economy. The critical elements of this program emphasize the importance of a multidisciplinary, systems oriented approach to engineering practice with a special focus on customer-driven design. While the curricular goals are to provide value-added experiences for students that go well beyond the scope of a traditional, discipline-centered BS degree program, an additional benefit of the program lies in its ability to transform the perspectives of the college’s faculty in regards to the vital role that multidisciplinary, team-based product development will play for engineering graduates who strive to add value to the global economy. Individuals often choose an academic career for the freedom it provides to explore and extend the boundaries of knowledge in a particular sub-discipline for which they have a passion. But this orientation runs counter to the broad-based, customer-oriented perspective needed in product development and project management. The honors program in the Kate Gleason College is structured to give participating faculty members a full appreciation for the dynamics of the team- based, product development process and the numerous issues on the periphery of engineering that are critical for engineers to be aware of in order to successfully commercialize a product in the global economy. Participating faculty members discover how knowledge creation in their discipline ties into “value creation” in society, better equipping them to incorporate these ideas in their own teaching and mentoring of students. Additionally, through their participation in the program, faculty members become much more receptive to the concept of team-based, multidisciplinary design as a model for the capstone design experience and, as a result, will advocate for the beneficial aspects of this approach among their faculty colleagues.


Real economic growth occurs through the development of innovative, value added products that uniquely meet customer needs and desires. The conceptualization, development and manufacture of these products are the purview of engineers. It is what the engineering profession is all about. As articulated by the Council on Competitiveness, “Innovation will be the single most important factor in determining America’s success through the 21st century.”1 While today’s research results provide the technical foundation for new product development, the nation needs engineers who are experts in utilizing the latest research results to create new, value-added products.

Even in its formative years in the early 1900s, the role of the engineering profession was to harness scientific discoveries to create products that address the needs and desires of our society, and in doing so shape and improve our quality of life. Thus, in attempting to imagine what engineering will be like, and what engineers will need to know, as we move more deeply into the 21st century, we only need to reflect upon how our lives are changing, how society is being stressed, and how recent scientific advances may relate to new product concepts that can address these conditions. “Technology has shifted the societal framework by lengthening our life spans,

Palmer, H. (2007, June), Catalyzing Systemic Change Towards A Multidisciplinary, Product Innovation Focus Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--3002

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015