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Curriculum Element: Using the Wall Street Journal to Provide National and Global Perspectives in an Engineering Economy Course

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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

Engineering Economy Division Technical Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Economy

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Paper Authors


James Burns Western Michigan University Orcid 16x16

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Jim Burns, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Industrial and Entrepreneurial Engineering and Engineering Management Department
Bio: Jim Burns holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from Western Michigan University, and has more than 10 years industry experience in the manufacturing sector in a variety of roles including process engineering, operations management, and technical sales. His area of expertise centers on applying OR/MS and Simulation techniques to Supply Chain & Operations Management problems, and has also conducted research in the areas of Human Factors and Work Design for evaluating time and motion efficiencies of operations. Jim also holds an undergraduate IE degree and a Six Sigma Greenbelt. Prior to joining the faculty at Western Michigan, Jim was an Assistant Professor for the Industrial Engineering Technology program at Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

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Bob White P.E. Western Michigan University

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Bob White has a Ph.D. in Engineering Valuation from Iowa State University (1980). He is currently a professor of Industrial and Entrepreneurial Engineering & Engineering Management at Western Michigan University. His interests include entrepreneurial engineering, engineering economy, capital budgeting, and operations control. Dr. White is actively involved as a consultant to industry having been involved with numerous companies. Dr. White has over 20 journal publications and more than 50 articles in conference proceedings. Some of Dr. White’s journal publications include The Engineering Economist, Computers and Industrial Engineering, The International Journal of Modeling and Simulation, and The International Journal of Production Research. His professional affiliations include or have included IIE, ASEE, and SME.

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Objectives: Engineering economy courses typically follow a format that includes the mathematics of time value of money, project analysis using methods such as NPV and IRR, and some tax and depreciation coverage. These topics provide students with a good background to economically analyze projects, but they do not provide a big picture perspective of how engineers interact with the world at large and how engineers are involved in economic undertakings that span the globe. This paper will describe how the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is used throughout an undergraduate engineering economics course to provide students a world-wide perspective and expose them to societal issues that need the special expertise and analytical approach of engineers. The paper will discuss how this approach is currently implemented and how it could be applied in both large and small sections of engineering economy. The paper will also provide insight strategies for choosing articles and how to navigate potentially sensitive topics that occasionally arise during class discussions.

Content: The content is drawn directly from WSJ articles. Specific articles are selected from several recent editions. The instructor and students read the articles independently at their leisure. It is the students’ job to absorb the information and the instructor’s job to craft a meaningful discussion and develop questions for a weekly quiz. The nature of the content varies based on the events of the day but generally focuses on articles discussing instances where engineering, societal issues, and economics coincide.

Delivery: The delivery of the content occurs at the beginning of class. Small discussions may occur during the week, but the main discussion takes place after a weekly quiz. Whether the topic is a dam collapse in Brazil, a new airport in Japan, or a subway system in India, students are interested in learning how engineering and economics work together and are interested in discussing these issues in the classroom.

Assessment: Weekly 10-question quizzes are given to provide incentive for students to read the selected WSJ articles. The quizzes account for approximately 10% of the total points available during the semester. Quiz questions are designed to both assess whether or not a student has read the assigned articles and to serve as the basis for class discussions. Quizzes are peer-graded immediately following the quiz.

Burns, J., & White, B. (2021, July), Curriculum Element: Using the Wall Street Journal to Provide National and Global Perspectives in an Engineering Economy Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36892

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