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Communication In A Project Based Learning Design Course

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Design Communications

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.303.1 - 13.303.8



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Paper Authors


William Riddell Rowan University

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William Riddell is an Assistant Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rowan University. His research and teaching interests include design, structural mechanics, transportation safety, energy efficiency and clean energy generation. Prior to Rowan University, he worked for the US Department of Transportation Research and Special Program Administration, and was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the Mechanics of Materials Branch at NASA Langley Research Center.

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Maria Simone Rowan University

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Maria Simone is the Director of Public Speaking and an Assistant Professor in the Communication Studies Department at Rowan University. Her research and teaching interests focus on deliberative democracy and a participatory civic culture. In her capacity as Director of the Public Speaking course, Simone has become increasingly involved in the scholarship of teaching and learning, with a focus on learning outcomes assessment.

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Stephanie Farrell Rowan University

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Stephanie Farrell is Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University. She received her Ph.D. from NJIT, M.S. from Stevens Institute of Technology, and B.S.E. from the University of Pennsylvania. Stephanie has developed innovative classroom and laboratory materials in biomedical, food, and pharmaceutical engineering areas.

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Peter Mark Jansson Rowan University

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Peter Mark Jansson is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rowan University teaching AC and DC electric circuits, power systems, sustainable design and renewable energy technology. He leads numerous Sophomore, Junior and Senior Engineering Clinic Teams in solving real world engineering problems each semester. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge, MSE from Rowan University and BSCE from MIT. His areas of research include novel electric generation technology and Mach's Principle.

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

Communication in a project based learning design course


Sophomores in the College of Engineering at Rowan University take a two-semester sequence where they are taught design and communication in a project-based-learning setting. In the fall and spring semesters, communication instruction focuses on technical writing and public speaking, respectively. The fall semester has developed into a highly- integrated technical writing and design course, allowing students to comprehend how writing informs the design process as much as the designing informs the writing. Like writing, public speaking is an essential aspect of engineering practice. However, integrating public speaking and design has proven significantly more challenging than integrating writing and design. Even when public speaking deliverables are directly tied to a design project, students often feel that the presentation is an afterthought. Indeed, in many cases the design is completed (or a significant milestone is reached) before the presentation is prepared. Thus, public speaking is often associated with design, but not as an integral part of designing. In this course, students give several mid-semester presentations as part of an ongoing design project, where they are given feedback by engineering faculty and their peers. As a result of this feedback, many students have come to realize that this form of communication is an important part of design.


The significant changes that accompanied the ABET 2000 document1 reflected the observation by academia and industry that engineering education needed to change to better prepare engineering graduates for the current work environment2,3. One result of these changes is that both design and communication have been given increasingly important treatment in undergraduate engineering curriculum. Project-based courses have been gaining acceptance as a means to introduce design experiences into the curriculum prior to the senior capstone design course4-6. In some cases, communication content has been integrated into engineering content as well7.

Undergraduate students in the College of Engineering at Rowan University take a sequence of eight project based learning courses, called Engineering Clinics8,9. The Engineering Clinics increase in realism throughout the four year experience. The Sophomore Engineering Clinics are specifically charged with teaching design and communication. Formal communication instruction focuses on technical writing and public speaking, in the fall and spring semesters, respectively. Sophomore Engineering Clinic I (SEC I) has developed into a highly-integrated technical writing and design course, allowing students to comprehend how writing informs the design process as much as the designing informs the writing10. The design instruction in SEC I is focused on parametric design11,12. In Sophomore Engineering Clinic II (SEC II), student teams are required to frame a serious design project for the first time. In this course, students receive two 75-minute instruction periods per week on public speaking, and one 165- minute instruction/laboratory period per week on design. The public speaking instruction

Riddell, W., & Simone, M., & Farrell, S., & Jansson, P. M. (2008, June), Communication In A Project Based Learning Design Course Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3318

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